Category Archives: Fitness

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

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 Ryde at Union Fitness!

As you may have heard, our friends at Urban Elements and Cycology (UEC) will be closing their doors at the end of the year. But as one door closes, another one opens. We are excited to welcome them to the Union Fitness family! Starting New Year’s Day, we will begin offering Ryde and Ryde Fusion classes, taught by former UEC instructors.


For those of you I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet, my name is Rachael and I have been coaching Cardiolab and Bootcamps for the past several years at Union Fitness. One of my passions is teaching cycling and I could not be more excited to bring two wonderful communities together.


What is Ryde? Why is It Different?

Real Ryder bike isn’t just a stationary bike, it’s movement is dynamic and adds another level to a cycle class. You can expect a Ryde or Ryde-Fusion class to be a full-body cardio experience with climbs, sprints, jumps, tabatas and more. Add music that makes you want to move and I am certain you will love Ryde just as much as I do.


Who’s It For? Do I Need Riding Experience?

Ryde is for anyone looking to add variety to their fitness routine. You do not need to have experience with indoor or outdoor cycling to enjoy a cycle class. Let your instructor know before class starts if you haven’t had experience with a Real Ryder Bike and any current or previous injuries. There may be some modifications that we recommend depending upon the situation. Regardless of your fitness level, a Ryde class is an excellent cycle-based fitness option to incorporate into your schedule (especially during winter in PA, let’s be honest).


What To Expect – Schedule & Components.

Our introductory schedule starts the first week of January with plans to add in the coming months. Mornings: Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5:30 am 30 minute RYDE. This can be followed up with one of our 6 am offerings (Yoga, Powerful, or Cardiolab). Evenings: Tuesday and Thursdays at 5:30 pm 60 minute Fusion-RYDE. 30 minutes on the bike followed by 30 minutes of bootcamp. Weekends: 45 minute RYDE Saturday at 8:30 am and Sunday at 9 am.


Meet The Instructors.

Our UEC Ryde instructors are very excited to join the UF crew so keep an eye out on the schedule for them! Billy, Kayla and myself will be leading the morning classes and Mallory and Natalie will be teaching in the evening. Meagan will be every Sunday and we will have a rotating schedule for Saturdays. Everyone brings their own style of teaching to the bike and makes each class a different and challenging experience!


Sign Up Soon.

We can’t wait to join you on the bike so get yourself signed up on MindBody! Classes will be live 12/27. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or catch me before or after classes.

Science Stuff You Should Learn

In the world of health, strength, and fitness there are numerous confusing terms. As one who has spent 20 years in this industry I blame myself, and those in my profession for this confusion. I and we must do a better job communicating science. Today I want to give you some basic terms, acronyms, and phrases that may help you.


  1. EPOC- EPOC stands for Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. It’s a very simple concept, that I will try to explain in easy terms. Imagine if I asked you to meet me at the parking garage. If you walked to 300 yards and I sprinted there when you arrived I’ll still be breathing heavy. We would have done the same amount of work (work is defined by displacement, so we both are equal in these terms), yet I am still winded. My body is still trying to overcome the changes in energy systems, yours is chillin. This is EPOC in real terms.
  2. Basil Metabolic Rate- This is how many calories your body burns by just sustaining life. There are a multitude of BMR calculators online. Age, sex, bodyweight, conditioning levels, and many other factors will affect this. Good rule of thumb if you are active then add a zero to the end of your bodyweight, and that’s a decent starting number.
  3. HRV-Heart Rate Variability. With the proliferation of smart watches I have seen a lot more people checking their HRV. In basic terms this is the time consistency of the time between heart beats. Think of it like this a good HRV is if your HR was 60 beats per minute and your heart beaten at 1.00 seconds then 2.00 seconds and continued this way for 60 seconds. Rule of thumb if your HRV is good then you are ready to train hard!
  4. RPE- Rate of Perceived Exertion. RPE was originally developed as a score of 6-20. The idea was 6 meant rest and heart rate would be at 60 BPM, whereas 20 meant full go, h and HR would be closer to 200. Now in lifting this isn’t even close to correct. RPE scale is now an easy 1-10 scale. The idea is 10 being as hard as you can do an activity and 1 being little to no work. The issue as I see it is that RPE is too subjective. IMO it should be looked at in the context of the training as well as using our next phrase, Velocity Based Training.
  5. VBT- Velocity Based Training. VBT is simple as it looks at fatigue as how much velocity drops on a given movement. With VBT There are a ton of rules of thumb as to how to use it. Yet, IMO VBT should be tied to RPE so that lifters can better use both of these ideas in their training.
  6. “Don’t fake the funk on a nasty dunk” Shaq. How does this pertain to strength and fitness? It doesn’t, yet it does. My man Ethan just told me I need to work this phrase into today’s blog, and any chance to use this quote is good for me. I will add that a closer reading of this phrase means, come into your session today with a positive attitude and prepared to not just fake it, but to work HARD.


Happiest of Holidays and a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU!

Todd Hamer



Terms You Should Know

There are many terms in the fitness world and here are 12 exercise terms you should know.



A set refers to how many times you repeat a given number of reps. For example, one set might be 12 reps of push-ups—repeating for three sets means you’ll do that three times through.


Repetitions (Reps)

Repetition is the amount of times you will perform the exercise (push-ups) in a set.


Super Set

Super setting means pairing two exercises and doing them back-to-back with minimal rest. There are many superset pairings to do.



A circuit consists of a series of exercises performed in sequence, with a short rest in between each exercise. A circuit can be timed, where you do as many completions as you can in a given time frame.


1RM (One-Rep Max)

This is the maximum weight that you can lift for one repetition of an exercise.



This acronym stands for “as many reps as possible.”


HIIT (High-intensity interval training)

A HIIT workout consists of several work-rest intervals. During the work interval you exercise as hard as you can. During the rest interval you either rest completely or continue moving at a low intensity, allowing your heart rate to decrease.



This stands for rate of perceived exertion, and refers to intensity. It’s a point of reference used to communicate how hard you should be working since what feels easy or challenging is different for everyone. On the RPE scale a 1 is little effort while a 10 means you couldn’t possibly do another repetition.



DOMS stands for delayed onset muscle soreness, which is the soreness you feel the day or two after a hard workout.


Single, Double, Triple 

This is for my class people and now they know the answer to this one. A single is 1 rep, a double is two reps and a triple is 3 reps. If I were to say “let’s work up to a heavy triple”, what would that mean?



This is what you should be doing before exercise to raise your heart rate and body temperature in preparation for the workout. This helps increase mobility, range of motion and preparation.



This is what you do at the end of your workout. The goal is to gradually bring your body back to a resting state by lowering your heart rate and calming your nervous system.


There are many more terms and more to come. The more you know.




Holiday Season Tips

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holiday season is upon us and we here at UF are excited for the new year, while also celebrating an exciting end to 2021. Here are some tips (and some ways we can help), for a strong end to 2021, and stronger start to 2022.


  1. Bring someone to the gym for our free week. If you have anyone coming from out of town, bring them to the gym Dec 23-Dec 31st for a free week. Have a friend who doesn’t train, bring them over. This offer is for anyone who is not a member and they do not need a member with them. This is an open invite for all to come try UF for one week. This membership will be an unlimited membership so please help others discover the beauty of strength.
  2. Give yourself a break. Yes, holiday parties will involve cookies and libations. Just get back on it the next day. It’s OK to be human.
  3. Keep your sleep schedule. Sleep is one of the most important acts humans do. Through all the adaptation we have seen as humans, the body has never changed how much rest we need. So try to stay on point.
  4. Get ready for SPIN! We are adding spin back to UF. Starting in January we will be having spin classes as well as our normal cardiolab classes. So try something new here at UF.
  5. Drink more water. Before the cookie tray hit the water fountain. Water will help reduce our urges, as well as just generally making us better.
  6. Serve others. Servant leadership is very important, especially at this time of the year. Do some good out there, it will come back to you ten fold.


Thank you for reading my rants about how we can improve ourselves and others. Now let’s all go out there this holiday season and share the love.



Introduction, Dylan

Hello Union Fitness Fam! My name is Dylan Kopp and I am a Personal Trainer and Strength Coach here at Union Fitness. I am from Frederick, Maryland and just recently moved up here to the Burgh. My girlfriend and I both moved here together in a pursuit of new opportunities, and to find out what the heck a yinzer is. 


I’m sure growing up people always asked you, what do you want to be when you’re older? For me, I never knew what I wanted to be and I was always worried I would never find out. My passions and interests changed as I aged but one thing in my life always remained: Sports and Fitness. I played every sport you can imagine from America’s pastime to a game from across the pond (Rugby). Sports shaped me into the leader and coach I am today. They have created a passion in me for promoting and living a healthy lifestyle. When I was in high school I finally realized I wanted to pursue a career in health and fitness. You could say this spark was ignited in me when I would drive my grandfather to physical therapy. Watching the therapist work with my grandfather inspired me to take action which eventually led to me getting my Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science from Towson University. From there I worked for a few years as an aid in both Physical therapy and Chiropractic clinics. This experience has provided a great understanding of how important health and wellness is and most importantly, how many people don’t know how to be healthy! This ignited a second spark in me, to help as many people as I can reach their health goals. My mission now is to create change and help those I work with reach their goals. No matter how big or small your goal is, it is achievable. In the future I plan on obtaining more certifications and creating more opportunities to help those around me. Hopefully by that time I’ll know what a yinzer is!


When I’m not lifting or coaching I am probably spending time with friends or traveling with my girlfriend. As an adventurous person I am drawn to a challenge. I have raced in multiple 5k’s and triathlons and plan on doing an ironman one day. Some of my non-fitness passions include camping, cooking and reading but my absolute favorite hobby is creating art. I have been passionate about my art for a few years now and I use it as a way to relieve stress and use a different part of my brain. 


Thank you for reading a little bit about me and if you are ever interested in getting coffee or just sitting down and chatting about your goals, just say hi and we’ll go from there!


“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as you ever can.” 


-John Weasley

Soak Up the Sun with CeJ and Sky

Soak up the Sun my friends,


In these chillier times make sure you escape your dark caves and grab some fresh air and Sun for some great health benefits.


When your skin is exposed to sunlight it hits cholesterol in the skin cells to provide energy for the creation of Vitamin D. Sunshine is the best way to promote Vitamin D levels since there is so little in many of the foods we eat. All we need to boost these levels of Vitamin D is 10-30 minutes 3 days a week out in the sunlight.


Sunshine and Vitamin D promote; the reduction in Type 2 diabetes, promotion of insulin production, boosts immune system (sunlight charges our health battery), lowers blood pressure (vasodilation of our blood vessels that that reduces blood pressure). Sunshine also improves mood and battles depression by the production of serotonin, the happy hormone. Sunshine promotes weight loss, so let’s get those buns out in the sun. Vitamin D promotes better bone and muscle health with the absorption of calcium. Sunlight affects the pineal gland that produces melatonin to promote quality sleep and battle depression.


Quick story short, make sure you still go out and get some sun!


Stay bright my friends,



Ride for Willy T

A good friend of ours here at UF died recently in a bicycle accident. As active people, we all know that there is risk in everything that we do. We assume this risk because life is supposed to be an adventure. In the words of our friend, “Life is a journey, enjoy the ride” Willy T.


In honor of Will we are going to do a bicycle ride on December 12, 2021, at noon. We will ride from UF out to Highland Park and back. This ride will be a chance to get people outside, make drivers and cyclists aware of bike safety. We will also be giving a shirt to Will’s awesome widow Jessie.


If you are interested in joining us for this opportunity sign-ups will be on our website and MindBody. Please consider participating in honor of Will and Jessie. If anyone is interested in donating please donate to, Pittsburgh Literacy Program. 


Thanks again for being a member of UF and supportive of us, and each other. Now let’s ride, and honor a great guy and my favorite lawyer Willy T.