Category Archives: Fitness

Happy Training Hour and Open Mic

One of our goals at UF is to be the most unique and diverse gym in the world. It appears as though we are doing a decent job with this, when you consider what we have done in the last few years. Here is a short list:


  1. Hosted “Bike Ride for Black Lives” fundraiser for Urban League of Greater PGH.
  2. Donated from our last meet to Veterans Place.
  3. Hosted two comedy shows (one was a fundraiser for OUT Athletics).
  4. Hosted a workout fundraiser for a friend and member who had cancer.
  5. Hosted two USPA sanctioned powerlifting meets.
  6. Hosted an in house push pull.
  7. Hosted workouts at Wigle Whiskey and Threadbare.
  8. Hosted Pittsburgh’s first ever metal, whiskey, and yoga event.
  9. Hosted outdoor workouts with our friends at Allegheny City Brewing.
  10. Hosted outdoor workouts with our friends at CommonPlace Coffee.


This is a short list of some of the things we have done. In addition to these things, you can come to UF anytime and see some of the strongest people around training and helping each other achieve their goals.


Now onto what our next event will be, on Friday Aug 27th at 6 PM, we are going to host a workout in our performance lab. This workout will be free to anyone and we invite you to bring friends. Following the workout we will head over to see our friends at Federal Galley for an open mic night. This is a free event yet we are asking people who want to pay to please just donate directly to our friends DanileStrong. I cannot promise that Curtis will sing a duet with CeJ, but who knows?



The Benefits of Paused Reps

In the world of strength training, we understand that progress is not always linear. There will be times of consistent progress, and there will be times where we feel like we’ve hit a wall, whether physically or mentally. Sometimes, getting through these periods can be as simple as changing exercises, adjusting sets and reps, or even our sleep habits, stress management, and nutrition. On the other hand, sometimes it takes a more challenging approach. When it comes to building strength and muscle, there aren’t too many techniques that can do the trick as well as performing paused reps. If you’re a regular in our Powerful class, then you’ve witnessed paused reps first hand. If you haven’t performed paused reps, then here’s your 101. 


The hardest part of most lifts is when the primary muscles that are performing the movement are in the lengthened position and when the weight being moved is at the bottom portion of the range of motion. For example, the bottom of the squat when the range of motion is the greatest and the quads and glutes are at their greatest stretch. The greater the range of motion, the harder it becomes for those muscles to produce the maximal force needed to complete the movement. One of the best ways to overcome this obstacle is to spend more time in that position, also known as paused reps. When performing a paused rep, the goal is to perform a 1-3 second pause in the bottom portion of the lift. As mentioned earlier, with squats, this is around parallel. With bench, this is on your chest, and with the deadlift, this is as soon as the bar breaks the floor. As you get better at performing these type of repetitions, you will become stronger in the hardest part of the range of motion, ultimately leading to greater muscle recruitment and force production.


When incorporating paused reps into your program, start with 60% of your one rep max for 3 sets of 3-5 reps. Progress as needed each week based off of how it feels. If it’s very challenging, then stay there for the next workout with the goal of performing higher quality reps. If 60% is relatively easy, then increase by 2.5%-5% the following workout. After 4-6 weeks, go back to performing standard repetitions. Use what you’ve learned over the previous 4-6 weeks and apply it to your standard repetitions. You will find that the weights move easier, you feel more confident when performing the lifts, and you will break through those training plateaus. 

August Challenges

Hi friends! I am so excited for this new trend we are going to be starting each month.  We have done a handful of challenges and I love the effort it brings out in all of those that participate.  However, they have not happened consistently and that is something I would like to make happen.  Each month you can expect new challenges and new prizes. My hope is to pick challenges that allow every member to feel involved so as the month changes, so will the goal of the challenge.  


For the month of August, there are three challenges that all center on classes that we offer here at Union Fitness.  Our evening classes have been steadily full but we would love to see more faces at 6am and noon – although classes in the evening can still count for one of the choices. 


Early bird gets the worm.


  • whoever attends the most 6am classes will be the winner of this category and receive a gift card to a local coffee / breakfast shop.


Lunch Time Achiever.


  • whoever attends the most lunch time classes will be the winner of this category and receive a gift card to a local lunch spot.


Class Killer.


  • whoever attends the most overall classes will be the winner of this category and receive a gift basket filled with a variety of gym goodies.


If you decide to join (which I hope you do!!), there are only two things that I need you to do.  First of all, come to classes! Secondly, print your name on the appropriate paper and add a tally after each class.  You may compete in all three if you would like, but if you happen to win more than one category you will receive the prize you want most.  The person following your lead will receive the prize for the other categories. 



Density Training & the Juarez Valley Method

August is almost upon us, and everyone is squeezing in those last minute trips and vacations while the weather is still nice. During vacation, there always seems to be that urge to fit in a few workouts in order to stay on track with the progress we have made over the previous months. Although it is never a bad thing to take a week off from training when traveling, it also isn’t a bad idea to squeeze in a few short workouts if you have the intentions to do so. For this, my advice is to keep them short, simple, and effective through a density training. Specifically, bodyweight density training. Density training takes into account the two variables of volume and duration. In short, this is how much work you can get done in a particular amount of time. This can ultimately help to increase your work capacity, which we know has many benefits within our overall strength, conditioning, physique, and health.


When it comes to bodyweight density training, one of my favorite routines is the Juarez Valley method. This method stems from the Juarez Valley prison in Mexico, where inmates would do a specific bodyweight workout using the length of their 8 foot cell. The individual would pick a number, either 10, 15, or 20. That number would represent the number of sets that would be completed. The repetitions go in ascending order on the even numbered sets and descending order on the odd numbered sets alternatively forming a valley structure. In the middle, they meet. For example, in Juarez valley 10, Set 1 has 10 reps (descending order) and Set 2 has 1 rep (ascending order). This method is typically performed with squats or push-ups, but can be used with other bodyweight exercises as well. Below is a full example of the Juarez Valley 20 for squats.


Set 1: 20 reps

Set 2: 1 rep

Set 3: 19 reps

Set 4: 2 reps

Set 5: 18 reps

Set 6: 3 reps

Set 7: 17 reps

Set 8: 4 reps

Set 9: 16 reps

Set 10: 5 reps

Set 11: 15 reps

Set 12: 6 reps

Set 13: 14 reps

Set 14: 7 reps

Set 15: 13 reps

Set 16: 8 reps

Set 17: 12 reps

Set 18: 9 reps

Set 19: 11 reps

Set 20: 10 reps


That’s a total of 210 bodyweight squats. Keep in mind, the goal is to complete all of the reps and sets in the shortest amount of time possible, aka density training. Record your time and try to beat it on your next workout. Incorporate these into your weekly routine and see the benefits.

Break Your Rules

Dr John Berardi is someone who has really helped me throughout my career when it comes to diet and nutrition. Years ago he wrote a book (I forget which one), to help people with their diet and training. In the book he recommended using an excel sheet to record your diet. The method he used was simple. Set a few simple rules such as,


  1. Have protein in each meal.
  2. Have fruits or veggies in each meal.
  3. Drink water at each meal.

I am not sure these were his rules, yet this is what I took away from the rules. Once this is set make an excel sheet with 7 columns and as many rows as meals you would eat each day.  If you were eating 5 meals per day you would have 35 empty boxes. Now each time you follow your rules put a check, and when you fail put an x in the corresponding box. At the end of the week score your sheet. Now try to do better next week.


Improvement is not linear yet your steps for improvement can be. Let’s say you had 20 meals that you followed the rules in week one, and 15 that you didn’t. This is your baseline. Just be one meal better next week. Keep taking steps in that directions. Here is the kicker, for most people scoring 100% on this is not only impossible, it isn’t a happy life. No matter how good you get at this don’t try to get to 100%, break your rules 10% of the time. This 10% is life that happens. Sometimes Marcus opens a new doughnut shop, and next thing you know we are eating doughnuts here at UF. If 2020 taught us anything it is, don’t turn down the opportunity to have a beer with a good friend.


Now I ask you, can you go set some rules, believe in those rules, and break them sometimes? Just by the act of being conscience of your decisions I can promise you that you will feel healthier and stronger. Until then I’ll be here eating the peaches that Sarah brought to the gym.


What is STRONG?

Here at UF we have some of the strongest people around and at times it can distort our imagine of strength. If you train at UF odds are you are STRONG. Think about this, what percent of humans actually train? And what percent train hard? Then consider that most gyms do not have people squatting 6,7,800 lbs and most gyms don’t have people deadlifting 600 for reps or multiple members bench pressing 500.


Now what we have seen what the strongest do let’s ask what is strong? Stuart McRobert once wrote that strong is a 3/4/5 guy (I do not know his numbers for women, sorry). So what is a 3/4/5 guy? A 3/4/5 guy is a 300 lbs bench press, a 400 lbs squat, and a 500 lbs deadlift. I know all the lifters are thinking, that isn’t strong! Yes it is, hear me out. Go to most gyms in America and deadlift 500 lbs, I promise you that heads will turn. Squat 4 plates and same thing will happen. Bench 3 plates and odds are you will be one of the strongest in the gym. As a powerlifter these numbers would be nothing to write home about, but as a human realistically this is a strong human.


So when you are training, and you look over and see someone squatting 200 lbs more than you can squat, don’t fret, you are strong. Instead of comparing yourself to a high level powerlifter, compare yourself to where you were before today. Are you stronger than last week, year, or month?


Stay the course, own your strength and keep working!



Fixing Maggie

Since you guys can’t seem to get enough of me, this blog is going to consist of multiple parts. A series if you will, with my progress and we will call it “Fixing Maggie”. Quickly after I started working at Union I was told that my mobility is complete and utter trash. I always knew that I tight hips, but I was just convinced that it was because of the way that I am built. As you all know from past blog posts, I spent most of my life playing basketball. In basketball, your ankles and hips are meant to be stable and we did not focus on flexibility for those parts of our body. We were meant to be strong in a wide position especially as a post player. As my coach liked to call it, “taking up space”. That is why I am way more comfortable in a sumo stance when doing lifts, rather than conventional or narrow stance. I was trained to take up as much space as possible #justgirlythings. 


After a quick ankle mobility test that Curtis told me to do, I was shocked to find out that the immobility in my ankles was affecting the mobility in my hips. My knee is supposed to be able to touch the wall in the photo shown, but as you can see it is nowhere near it and trust me I am pushing hard. I was also honored to be named the worst ankle mobility of all time as Curt so proudly stated. This photo was taken about 4 weeks ago and I have been doing about 30 minutes of hip and ankle mobility exercises 4-5 times a week since then. Focusing on this is important for me to become a better lifter and minimize injury as much as I can. I am also curious to see where my potential is as a lifter because I have been enjoying it a lot. If I have better range of motion I will be able to handle heavier loads and progress in my strength which is the ultimate goal. So far, there has been a noticeable change in the way that I squat. Don’t worry photos will be coming soon; I know you are all itching to see. 


My mobility program consists of hip and ankle banded distractions, hip airplanes, spiderman stretches, calf release, banded floss, 90/90 stretch, and tempo goblet squats. I do these before my squat days in order to warm up those mechanisms and have a more successful squat day in terms of range of motion and stability. I have also programed different forms of squats into my split during the week that include pit shark, box squats and back squats. When I approach the bottom of my squats, it was almost like my hips were locking and I would stick coming out of the hole. That ½ second was confusing especially when it was not a lot of weight and the rest of the squat was smooth. I mean maybe it wasn’t the smoothest being that I am still new to this whole weight lifting thing, but smooth for me. Since starting this mobility program along with my training program, I have noticed less locking and pain in my hips and ability to add more weight while staying as smooth as I can. If you would like to talk to me more about it or if you want to follow my journey to a better squat let me know! 


Happy training, 



Slow Cookin’

I’ve been training and I’ve been training others for two decades now, and I’ve seen some great strength feats and amazing physiques. I am writing this to tell you that it is all fleeting. Hopefully, this isn’t too negative for you. It’s written to make you enjoy these moments more.


Any time that I start to get a big head, I remember what Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay experienced. These two humans summited the highest mountain and came down to tell their story. No one had ever accomplished this and it still is one of the most impressive human feats of strength and resilience. Also consider they climbed above the death zone with none of the technology that we have available to us today. People skiing at Seven Springs have better equipment than they had climbing Mt Everest.


This story is important not just for what they accomplished but also to remind us that we have a brief time to celebrate our victories. Anyone who climbs a peak 8000+ meter mountain knows that one can usually only spend minutes at the top and then they must begin descending or they will die. They knew that if they did not begin descending  then the accomplishment would mean nothing. This is the same as training.


If you look at social media you will see 20 somethings with 6 packs talking about how to be healthy (mentally and physically). Consider the context, has this person trained, worked, raised a family, bought a house, or dealt with life stress for a decade or more? Generally, the answer is no. We are living in real life and there will be stress and ups and downs. So instead of comparing ourselves to a filtered photo at the top of someone’s life just ask did you take steps forward? This does not mean that you will move forward linearly, even homeostasis moves up and down.


So what I am asking you is to not be so hard on yourself. My good friend Ward told me I have a very healthy relationship with food, I truly didn’t grasp what this meant. Yet, he taught me that most see food as good or bad, I see food as something to eat. At times I like cake or beer, sometimes I even have donuts. I know doing this may mean I won’t have abs like Ward yet I also am conscience of my decisions and I’ll try to do and be better tomorrow.


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. 

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.