Category Archives: Fitness

My Five

I feel like its been a hot minute since I last wrote a blog and whilst I normally have something to say in regards to nutrition, training or even mental wellness today I’m taking a different approach. I’m going to throw at you five things I cannot possible live without, this is in regards to every aspect of my life and a little “get to know me” type of post if you’re new to Union Fitness and have no idea who that blonde chick in the Birkenstock’s is.


My Five


Coffee: I’m a huge advocate for letting your body wake up naturally rather then jump out of bed and literally run for the freshly made pot waiting for you on the counter. However, there is nothing like it when I take that first sip in the morning, I truly do go to bed thinking about that initial cup of coffee. I will argue that Starbucks is consistently just okay and I’d much rather opt in for a small business brew that has been locally sourced.


Breakfast Food: I don’t know about any of y’all but I could eat breakfast at all hours of the day, I mean its basically an excuse to eat dessert at 8AM in the morning. I’d say my favorite breakfast meal that I don’t normally get to eat would be a crepes with a Nutella spread, bananas + strawberries doused in maple syrup (because I’m also Canadian, duh).


The Gym: Pretty sure a lot of people feel me here, especially post-quarantine I realized how much of my socializing in life comes from the gym atmosphere. Not only is it a huge hobby of mine it’s also my job and I’m very thankful to be able to do what I love on a day to day basis. The gym has allowed me to grow immensely over the past six years and within the last three, getting more involved in the competitive aspect I’ve truly learned how important it is to love the process and love the day in/day out mentality.


Leggings: I’m getting pretty basic here with my top five but if I’m being real with you, I own two pairs of jeans and thats 100% the truth. Leggings are my work, workout and life choice of clothing and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I despise clothes that are tight and especially during specific times of the year sometimes I really just hate clothes and would much rather live on a private island so I could wear a bikini all day long.


Ice Cream: Hands down would do absolutely anything (that is legal) for Ben & Jerrys. I’m a fan of chocolate Halo Top but lets be honest, if I’m going to have ice cream I’m going to eat the real stuff, even if a lot of dairy hurts my stomach. I’m just a huge ice cream girl, I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and a whole pint in one sitting, truly wondering if maybe I could handle another. Name a better ice cream company, I’ll wait….


As generic as my answers are they are so truthful, my life is super boring and primarily revolves around work, training, eating and sleeping but honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way. So, now that I’ve told you all my five, I’m nominating my fellow co-worker Cayt Neff to white about her five things she can’t live without!


Much love,

Bootcamp and Beers

Great people of Union,


I come to you electrified with great tidings of events to come! We are so happy to see you all safely return to Union and want to do a little something something to celebrate our members, friends of members and our community with two upcoming events.


The first event will start your 4th of July off with a BOOM! Here at UF’s outdoor location we will have an hour long, fun filled Charity Super Class led by Curtis, CeJ and a few special guests coaches. The class will start at 9am, we will toss some weights around, jump, throw medicine balls, carry bars, sprint and much much more. So please feel free to bring a friend, brag about this event on your social media and rock your best 4th of July workout gear. We will be taking any and all donations for………..Wounded Warrior.


Our next event “UF & ACB Bootcamp & Beers” will be held at Allegheny City Brewing July 11th from 11am-12pm. A few of your favorite UF Coaches have paired up with ACB to bring you a Saturday morning get you right bootcamp class, that any and all our welcomed, you just have to be 21 or older to enjoy some tasty libations after the class. If you are interested in this class please just give us a heads up or surprise us and show up, no matter what we will be ready to get bumpy then safely cheers some glasses afterwards. We will be asking for canned food items to donate to our local food bank, no money for the class is needed, just a positive attitude and your smiling faces!


Thank you for making UF so strong and building a community.





Training Log; CeJ, Ham and The Skylyn

Today we will take on a trip around the Union Fitness bump team.


We are lucky enough to have guest lifters join us often here at UF. Today Skylyn joined CeJ and myself for a fun bench session. The following is what went down.


Warm Up

Jump Rope 100 reps without a miss. This is something that should be done daily.

Band Pull Aparts 150 reps with different angles and bands.



Strength is still down BIGTime since the lock down. SOOOOOO…..


bar 45 2×10










1a Shoulder Save Close Grip Bench 225 3×8-10.

1b Chins with 26# 3×6-8.


Drop Set Dips 2 sets, 2 chains x10, 1 chain x10, BWx20, Band Assisted x20.

Drop Set Cable Rows I forget the weights, but we did 20 reps and 4 drops (so well over 100 total reps).


We finished with some fun arm pumps on cable machines.


Since returning from the lockdownI have returned to training with CeJ and I realized how much fun it is training with good people. I often see lifters who are looking for a “coach,” my best advice to you is stop looking for a coach and find good training partners.









Why Team?

When I was younger nothing stuck for me, it wasn’t until my mother forced me into swimming that I eventually learned to love it. I started on a summer swim team, it was an outdoor pool and this less than 100lb girl would shiver like no other, my lips were blue and I was always and I mean always cold at practice. It was so bad that my mother had to buy me a wetsuit just so I could withstand an hour plus of practice. The Colby Sailfish is what started it all for me and from there my parents decided to put me into winter swimming, I remember it being a huge deal and caused so much drama. Back then moving from summer swimming to winter meant you wanted to be more competitive and looking back I realized if that never would have happened then I wouldn’t have been as competitive as I am today.


Swimming was a big part of my life and it helped me learn the importance of routine and structure. I followed swimming with cross-county and paired those together for the remainder of my school years. It didn’t leave much room for anything else but my life was sports and for as long as I can remember, even at 27 thats how it has always been. I’ve always enjoyed putting my all into something that gave me results based upon what I put in, it was entirely up to me and how hard I wanted to work. It showed me that work ethic didn’t throw out favors and it didn’t give away trophies for participation, there was a clear winner based upon time that was spent grinding.


My biggest takeaway from swimming was relays, it didn’t occur to me until later in life that I absolutely enjoyed the rush of being on a team consisting of four people. I’d always push myself harder, I’d swim faster and I’d leave it all out there in the pool for my teammates. This translated fluidly to when I started competing in the sport of Functional Fitness, being on a team consisting on two males and two females took pushing myself to a whole new level. In all my years of being an athlete I have never pushed myself to the point I continue to push myself on a day to day basis with my current teammates. 


This is why I think playing sports when you are younger is so important, it truly is part of what makes you who you are in this present moment. It teaches you things that you will carry throughout your life and give you skills that you can apply to many situations that aren’t even closely related to sports. When I was put on a relay in swimming I knew that I had a part to play in the outcome and with that being said, in life you play a part alongside many people. This can be your relationship, as a daughter, brother or sister, it could be as a parent or a coach. We are all constantly surrounded by opportunities to showcase our ability to work within a social structure and create something beautiful alongside others.


So, to answer the title of this blog, why team? I think it all comes down to being able to share something greater than yourself with other people. When working within a team generally you know your teammates abilities and they know yours so you’re able to jump in when they need a break and vise-versa. To be able to have this understanding amongst three other people is so rare and to even be able to communicate in such a way that you all understand what each individual is feeling is a learned skill from your younger years of competing. 


At the end of the day I absolutely love being on a team, it has given me a sense of belonging in a world that makes it so hard to be yourself. It’s also more than a team, they are your friends, your family, not because you spend so much time together but because you truly do care about each individual. I think I’ll always choose to be on a team in every aspect of my life, not just my athletic pursuits. If the life lessons of team sports taught me this much that it carried through till my 27th year around the sun then there is something to be said about the kind of person you turn into when you learn to let people help you and they let you help them in return.


Much love,



UF Adventure Team

For those of you who couldn’t join us last Saturday we had a fun day of outdoor exercise and showed our new expansion (The Performance Lab). We here at UF are happy to be expanding our services to all of our members. One area I am hoping to see growth is our outdoor activities.


One of the events we had last weekend was the first ever UF bike ride. It was a small affair with 4 riders, but an active and fun group. We rode our bikes from here through the Northside and into the strip district for a nice tour of our fine city. The ride consisted of a few nice little climbs but nothing too bad.


I hope events such as this ride become a more normal activity here at UF. With all that we as a society have been through in the last three months let’s all try to get outside more. Find ways to connect with your community and see the beauty in the world. My challenge to UF is to find ways to be active, while remaining safe and healthy.


Thank you all for what you do, and if you have new ideas as to how we can get outside and be better people, neighbors and friends please tell us.


Peace and Love,


Todd Hamer

Salutations Sultans and Sultanas of Swing.

Today we are going to play a game to help us understand and know the difference between Sprains, Strains & Tears on this episode of Know…Your..Lingo! (Audience participation and applause)


Let me lay down the terms and facts about them first. You will be tested on this so bust out your writing utensils, be it quil, dip pens, ballpoint or #2, and paper, parchment, or clay tablets and toss that thinking cap on, even you back there Billy!


Sprains go down when a joint (ankle, knee, wrist, shoulder, ect) is forced into an awkward or unnatural position. Sprains are the overstretching or tearing of ligaments. Think of a ligament as a fibrous connective tissue in the body that connects bone to bone to help stabilize them together. A scenario this could happen is when you are walking on an uneven surface and then your ankle turns/twists one way. People often say twist when they refer to sprains.


Strains materialize from repetitive movements over a long period of time or from a single incident, where overstretching or tearing of the muscle or tendon occurs. Muscles and tendons are fibers that connect muscles to bones. A chronic strain would be from repetitive movements overtime whereas an acute strain is a single instantaneous stretch or tear. A scenario this could happen is when you are picking up a heavier box from the floor and feel a “pull” in your lower back. People often say pull when they refer to strains.


Tears stumble into existence from the ripping of ligaments, muscles or tendons from related actions that would cause those fibers to overstretch and is far  more serious and could take months to heal. Tears could mean surgery or rehabilitation depending on the severity. You may see a tear happen in sports, one of the most know tears would be at the knee more commonly thought of as an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear.


Fill in the blank Test.

(Sprain Strain Tear)

Select the correct term above to fill in the blank. 


1. Todd was frolicking down Penn ave listening to Hatebreed when he awkwardly stepped in a pothole and _______ his ankle.


2. Big Curt has been throwing fast balls all season for UF’s baseball team, but after throwing the game winning pitch in extra innings he felt a pulling sensation in his shoulder muscles. Big Curt believes he _______ his shoulder.


3. During the Wizard’s Powerful class one of the members crushes a lift and hits a new PR. Upon celebration the Wizard performs his special PR dance and then magically goes down gripping his knee. Upon further review is appears the Wizard has suffered a ________ at the Knee


4. When Sky’s favorite gym reopened (UF) she was thrilled to go train. So elated, that she jumped on the deadlift platform, loaded the bar to 500lbs and gave it the old fashioned college try. About halfway up on the lift she feels her low back get tight and drops the bar. The crowd grumbles and rumbles, saying she must have ______ her low back.


5. Mr. Rogers was leaving his television station WQED on a cold Pittsburgh winter day. As he was walking down the stair he slipped on some slippy ice and caught his fall by extending his arms and landing on his writs. He felt like his wrist was jammed or twisted and said “Awe shucks I ______ my wrist.” He immediately healed because he is Mr. Rogers.


Thank you for learning and playing on today’s episode of “Know Your Lingo”. Tune in soon for more fun and as always Stay Bumpy my friends.



Answers: 1) Sprain 2) Strain 3) Tear 4) Strain 5) Sprain

Four Pillars: Sleep

I won’t talk too much about what someone can do during this pandemic. I believe that enough people talking about how to maintain your fitness during the current situation. What I do want to talk about is what I believe to be the four pillars to success in any fitness goal. These are the four subjects that I start with everyone I work with and constantly maintain status on them. Especially, if you feel like you hit a wall or stuck in going forward revert back to these four:


Sleep, Nutrition, Training, Water.


In that exact order as well. I realize that these might seem obvious but through a series of articles on each, I plan to cover certain points that I find people miss.


Let’s start with sleep. Sleep is by far the most important key to achieving any goal you have. Especially any physical goal. If you want to understand how important sleep really is I highly recommend looking into Dr. Matthew Walkers research.


Again everyone knows how important it is but how do you optimize it. Well besides sleep hygiene (no tv before bed, going to sleep at the same time each night, and no blue light an hour before bed) I believe there to nutritional deficiencies and air way problems that seriously hinder your sleep.


  1. Vitamin D
    1. Vitamin D is highly important for calcium absorption but less known that low vitamin D levels are associated with sleep disorders. Dr. Stasha Gominak has done some great work in looking at deficiencies in vitamin D and B vitamins with sleep disorders. Now, I am no doctor or dietitian so I highly, HIGHLY, recommend getting blood work. This helps establish where you are now. Another thing I want to make clear is when you get the test is important to note that the “normal” range for vitamin D is 30ng/mL – 100ng/mL which is a HUGE range. That just makes sure you are not sick that do not show optimal levels. Just because you are not defined as sick does not mean you are not showing symptoms that are effected by not being in an optimal range. I shoot to keep my levels around 60ng/dL. I do this by being outside as much as I can but also supplementing vitamin D. Again talk to a health professional but here is a link for further info on Vitamin and sleep which could help tremendously


  1. Magnesium
    1. This one you might have heard of. A lot of sleeping supplements out there load this one up but the real question is why would so many people be so deficient in this one? I believe people consume an abundant amount of diuretics which can flush out important electrolytes and minerals. If you are drawing a blank let’s run through an average day. Waking up to a great cup of coffee is your first diuretic, then maybe around three you have another cup of diuretic and maybe it’s been a particularly long day so you have an alcoholic beverage or two to finish the day with a strong diuretic. Even before that hit’s you, most people’s magnesium levels are lower than optimal since magnesium is green leafy vegetables, which most people don’t consume. Again we are talking about optimal levels and since it’s not fat-soluble you can flush these real quick but also replenish quickly too. Talk to your doctor or a dietitian before supplementing but since magnesium is water-soluble it is fairly harmless to supplement. If you want to consume magnesium through food try a spinach smoothie with more than a cup in it as well as snack on Brazil nuts, which unfortunately taste like dirt.


  1. CPAP Machine (Continuous positive airway pressure)
    1. I want to give a client experience with this one. I had a client that wanted to get into powerlifting. The first thing I do is bring up my four pillars (for any goal). At first, he would always say that his sleep was great but after a while, he finally mentioned how he snores rather constantly through the night. Realizing that snoring is not a good sign I recommended a sleep study. It took some time but eventually convinced him to get a sleep study. My client was diagnosed a CPAP machine right away. Let me make something extremely clear, before this he told me he got “good” sleep, he didn’t wake up that tired, and normally felt energized throughout the day but once he got the CPAP machine one of the first things he told me was “I didn’t realize how poor I have been sleeping for so long.” One point I want to stress, the more I work with people the more I realize how common this is. I have seen all shapes and sizes have this problem so just because you don’t have a neck like some of our powerlifters doesn’t mean you don’t have it.


You might feel that you are sleeping “well” but I would argue that you also might be sleeping so poorly for so long that your baseline could eventually be one of your worst nights of sleep. 

Side note his blood pressure went down that was on the higher side for some time.


I hope you noticed how many times I mentioned “optimal.” It’s important because it’s not usually that giant red flags that hold us back from our goal. It can be the little things over a long period of time that ultimately restricts us from accomplishing our goals. Optimizing the little things can have a profound effect.

Here are added articles/videos that go more in depth:

Know Your Deadlift

Hello House Union, Strongest Crue of Land Pittsburgh,


Do you want to be; strong, athletic, ripped, toned, flip cars, pickup household objects with ease or just have a fabulous backside? If you said yes to any of these then it’s time to deadlift. “But I’ve heard it’s bad for my back and I’ll hurt myself, Mr. Bumpy Sir!?” Nay nay my good chum, with well taught form and various progressions, the deadlift can be very safe and beneficial to your daily life and provide exercise longevity. There are so many ways to exercise and multiple variations of the deadlift that can suit your training age and wellness goals. Also you don’t need a barbell to deadlift, you can use; kettlebells, bands, dumbbells, sandbags or even sacs of potatoes if you’re still in quarantine mode. This blog will be less about deadlift technique but the different pull variations out there for you to party with. Today, I will tell you some of my favorite variations on everyone’s favorite Day Time Game Show…Know Your Deadlifts!


Conventional: This is your standard great old fashioned pull. Your hips are in a higher position than a Sumo or Trap-bar dead and you are pulling back and up to move the dead weight. This applies a great amount of work for posterior chain development (Calves, Hamstrings, Glutes & Back muscles).


Sumo: Picture Sumo wrestlers, this deadlift takes a wider stance, your hips are lower and you have a more upright torso compared to its conventional counterpart. This variation can take stress of the low back and put the emphasis of work on the hips,quads and glutes.


Trap-Bar: A hybrid between deadlift and squat, this is a great exercise to learn and progress from for everyone. You won’t have to bend down as low so this can help you get into position if you are less mobile. This variation still works the posterior chain while also  puts a great emphasis on the quads. Most Trap-Bars will produce a shorter range of motion.


Romanian Deadlift (RDL): This is a partial movement variation of the conventional deadlift. The RDL starts at the top (unless you are picking the weight from the floor) and with a slight bend in your knees you hinge back til the weight is around mid-shin or below the  knee (hamstring flexibility may limit you), then squeeze those glutes and return the bar back to your hips. This exercise targets the muscles of the posterior chain and can take stress off the knees and quads.


Snatch Grip: This variation uses a barbell and the setup is very similar to the conventional deadlift, the main difference is that your hands hold that bar with a wide grip (around where the ring of the bar is). The Snatch Grip will challenge your upper back and grip a lot more than the conventional pull and have an increased range of motion.


Flash Round


Block Pull: The weight is raised up on blocks/mats to decrease the range of motion and can be beneficial to target specific muscle development or lockout strength.


Deficit Deadlift: The lifter will be elevated by blocks/mats and the weight will be at a deficit, this increases the range of motion and helps the lifter possibly improve leg drive and starting strength.


Single Leg RDL: One leg is rooted in the ground while the other moves freely in this exercise. A great option to work on muscle imbalances and challenge your balance. This exercise really firers up the calf, hamstring and glute of the rooted leg.


Staggered Stance RDL: Similar to the Single Leg exercise above except both feet are grounded. The lead leg in the staggered stance takes the work, with both feet on the ground it is easier to balance and increase the weight.


Dimmel Deadlift: Think RDL but much more dynamic with a slightly shorter range of motion.


Thank you for tuning in to Know Your Deadlifts and I hope you enjoyed this episode and took something fun away. What are some of your favorite deadlift variations that I didn’t list or some you just want to show more love to. Please share and comment.


Remember we pick things up & put them down….for fun.




Home Built Fitness

If you are reading this, there is a good chance that you have been getting creative with your at-home workouts recently. It makes me happy to see everyone continuing to stick to their goals, regardless of the circumstances placed in front of us. Although this pandemic is a very rare occurrence, there is a good chance that something like this may happen again (or at least something that may keep us out of our favorite gym). Because of this, it might be beneficial to work on putting together a home gym. This way, we can pick up right where we left off without any worries or hesitation when this happens again.


I do understand that by being the director of a gym that relies on members, it kind of goes against the grain telling you to start putting together your own gym so you can train at home. But I also understand that what makes a gym great is it’s community. There’s nothing better than training with or around a group of like minded individuals who are all pushing each another to be better. It’s also important to be realistic, and understand that there will always be times where it just may not be possible to make it into the gym, and that occasionally a workout may need to be done at home (if possible). 


Now, the term “home gym” can mean many different things. It can be a collaboration of simply the absolute necessities and nothing more, or an array of equipment for a full body weight training workout. Either way, having your own at-home equipment at your disposal will allow you to get a quality workout in during a time of need, and will easily pay for itself down the line. Listed below are two separate lists of at home equipment. One for the individual on a limited budget or with limited space, and one for the individual who has access to a larger area, looking to invest a little more into equipment.


Budget built:


1.Yoga mat: If you have hardwood floors or are down in your garage, this is definitely a necessity for all floor exercises.


2.Resistance bands: You can replicate almost any exercise with a quality set of resistance bands. Companies such as Elitefts sell bands individually, or in a variety pack, ranging 


3.Adjustable dumbbells: Yes, these can be a bit pricey compared to a set of resistance band and a yoga mat, but their versatility speaks for itself. The list of exercises you can perform with a pair of dumbbells are endless, and will easily pay for itself over your time training at home.


Bang for your buck:


1.Power rack: If you have the space and the funds, a power rack is an absolute necessity for strength training. Squats, bench press, overhead press, rows, and pull-ups can all be performed using a power rack, just to name a few.


2.Adjustable bench: Having an adjustable bench over a flat bench with increase the number of exercises that you can perform.


3.Power bar: It’s hard to get strong without being able to perform compound lifts. A good quality power bar will last a lifetime, and is one of the best investments you can make.


4.Plate loaded dumbbells: Since you will have an array of 45, 25, 10, and 5 pound plates, you won’t need to purchase a pair of adjustable dumbbells (unless you prefer). Plate loaded dumbbells are simple, durable, effective, and can be used for almost any exercise.


Whichever you choose, there is no doubt that you will be able to have a quality training session during those times of need. We only get one body, invest in taking care of it so it will take care of us for many years to come.

Challenge your perspective.

These are very uncertain times that we are living in. With things changing day to day in the world, it’s hard to tell what tomorrow will bring. Unfortunately, there are many things that are out of our control right now. That’s just the reality of it. However, it’s important to stay focused on the things that we can control. Especially those things that are most important, but which we often easily overlook. During these times of change, it’s easy to force ourselves to keep moving just to stay busy, even if that means adding more stress. My advice, slow down and challenge your perspective.



A little over a week ago, I was admitted into the hospital for a few tests and precautionary measures. I ended up having a case of the flu, as well and pneumonia. It’s safe to say that this put me on my ass for a while. During that period of forced downtime, I began reflecting on different things. Things that I had never really thought about before, or at least for a very long time. Over the past week, I have reached out to friends and family to see how they were doing. One of the common responses I received was that they were worried about their training, or bummed that the gym was closed. Believe me, I completely understand. Especially when you’ve done something a certain way for so long and have established progress and a routine. Then all of a sudden it feels like it was taken from you. But guess what, it’s going to be okay! Maybe even a blessing in disguise.



I’ve been training in one capacity or another for 12 years straight. During that time, I have never gone a week without training, until now. While I was sick, I went 13 days without any sort of exercise. Yesterday was my first day back, and it felt like I had never exercised a day in my entire life. My routine was simple. I walked 2 miles, then did 2 sets of 10 tempo goblet squats with a 25lb bag of jasmine rice, 2 sets of 10 pull-ups from an I-beam in my basement, and 2 sets of 15 push-ups. I was absolutely gassed. The flu and pneumonia definitely took a toll on me. After I was finished, I sat down and reflected. I was not one bit depressed or upset with how much I had declined while not being able to train, or the fact that I did not train 2 weeks, for I understood that 2 weeks of not exercising is not going to erase what I have built in 12 years (remember that). In fact, it gave me time to focus on other things in my life. Things that maybe I’ve been over looking and taking for granted. That’s very easy to do if we let it happen.



The same holds true for all of you reading this. It makes me happy to see everyone continuing to find ways to workout and train during these times, but remember not to let it consume you. Don’t train because you feel like you HAVE to, or because you want people to know that you still are. If you chose to train, do it because you love it, and because it gives you joy. If you chose to take a break, that’s fine. Honestly, there’s no better time then now. If you’ve been exercising for any extended amount of time, there’s even a good chance that your body actually needs a break, and it will help your progress in the long run. Your strength wasn’t built in two weeks, and it certainly won’t leave you that quickly.



During this time of quarantine, the lack of worrying about my workouts has given me time to focus on my perspective. What is really important in my life, and what can I learn today? I challenge you to do the same. Slow down, and take some time out of your day to reflect on what is truly important in your life. I’ve talked to my parents every day since the start of this Pandemic. That’s something that I’ve now realized I don’t do enough of. I’ve gotten in touch with friends and family who I haven’t spoken to in quite some time. Yesterday I watched my Fiancé sew masks together to be donated to Hospitals in need. That inspired me more than I can explain, and even inspired me to learn how to sew. I saw a picture of a friend of mine on Instagram with his Guitar. Something that maybe he hasn’t taken the time to do in a while.



During these times of uncertainty, slow down, and take some time to challenge your perspective. Reach out to those who you care about, put your phone away and go for a walk, read a book, write something, and learn something new that you’ve always been curious about. Believe it or not, this will all be over before we know it. When that time comes, I hope we are all able to look ourselves in the mirror and know that we have become a better person because of it.