Category Archives: Fitness

The Next Step

During life there are times when we find ourselves enjoying our current situation and everything seems great. We love our job, our position, every day feels great, and we know what is planned in our future. Eventually, we must face that future and it becomes a reality, however this is a part of everyone’s journey. Sometimes, this next step in our life is good, bad, exciting, scary, or even a mixture of all of these. How we face it is up to us, and I am making a step in my life that encompasses all these feelings and emotions.


For those of you who do not know me that well, I have been in Pittsburgh for the past 5 years. I did my undergraduate degree here at the University of Pittsburgh in Exercise Science and am wrapping up my Master’s in Clinical Exercise Physiology. I always knew that after school something would have to change, but it did not start to become a reality until just recently. As I began to search for jobs, I realized that depending on where I got offers from (if I got any that I wanted to pursue that was!) that I potentially would have to relocate. Ultimately, after many job applications, interviews, and job offers I landed a position as an Exercise Physiologist back home where I am originally from (Harrisburg, PA). This was very exciting! However, it also meant I had to leave my home (the city of Pittsburgh) which for the last 5 years helped me grow tremendously as an individual. Pittsburgh has truly changed my life and who I am, and to all my professors, friends, places of employment and anyone who I interacted with while I was in Pittsburgh, I cannot thank you all enough for such an amazing experience and will never forget any of it. Does it suck that I must leave? It does; however, I know this is the next best step for myself and it will help me become an even better version of myself than I already am. Who knows, one day I may even end up moving back to Pittsburgh.


Anyways, the point I am trying to get across is sometimes in life we must make that next step, whether it be a career change, a job change, or anything else. The way we embrace it and handle it is up to us. Being aware that this will happen and appreciating everything that lead up to that moment and being thankful will help realize that you truly enjoyed what you’ve done so far, and that moving on does not mean that you are losing everything. It just means that this next step is going to offer you a new opportunity to make memories and grow even more as an individual. So, next time you make that next step in life be proud of how far you’ve come, take some time to truly reflect and be grateful for all you’ve accomplished, and take that next step in your life with confidence and be excited to go out and become the best version of yourself.




(as always Get Better Today!)

Ham’s Training & Special Guest Lifter

I wrote a blog to start the year about my goals. I started the year with some specific goals, yet life happens and things change. I had an injury to start 2022, and that changed everything. Injuries can be a great opportunity to learn and grow. I have spent most of 2022 recovering and I feel like I am back to somewhat “normal” training. Once you think things are “normal” it’s time for a change.


Arrive the guest lifter.


Today Paul “Canadian Crusher” Oneid has entered America. Paul and I used to work together as strength coaches at Robert Morris. Back then we were both young and dumb, and made too many mistakes to even mention. The problem is Paul was ten years younger than I was, and I was still making the same mistakes that he was making. After RMU, Paul went on to do well in powerlifting and coaching. Today he runs his own business and is training for his first bodybuilding show.


Today Paul and I are going to train together (we haven’t trained together in about a decade). Yes, I am going to do a bodybuilding training session. I am going to get some footage and share some of the training on our story if you have any interest in watching this old man grind. Our training will start today at 2 PM and you are more than welcome to watch and make fun of me and be awe of Paul’s strength.


Seriously, please feel free to ask any questions or just want to see some different things then jump on the gram today and see what we are doing.



My Appreciation for Union Fitness

I recently went on vacation with my family to North Carolina. I don’t usually go to the gym when I’m on vacation, as my plan is to relax and restore as much as possible. However, Being 4 weeks out from my next powerlifting competition, I had to get in at least two quality sessions while I was there. So I found what Google said to be the best gym within driving distance, and I made my way there. Having been in this profession for 13 years, naturally, I go into new places and look around to see what I think. I briefly analyze the layout of the gym, along with the equipment, the cleanliness, the staff, and the various members that go there. With this gym being in the center of a popular vacation town, I knew that at least half of the people there were visitors just as I was. So I knew to be open minded about my experience.


As I was warming up on the treadmill, I noticed many things that were very different from what I experience on a daily basis at Union Fitness. I noticed that most people weren’t acknowledging one another. There weren’t many smiles, head nods, or waves. There was no “how are you?”, “May I work in with you?”, “Excuse me.”, “Thank you”. None of that. Despite all of that, I continued to stay open minded, as I knew that many people there have never seen each other before, and may never see each other again. 


As my Wife and I proceeded to go through our training session on our final day there, a woman walks our way and asks us where we were from. We told her that we were from Pittsburgh and that we train at a gym called Union Fitness. She continued by giving us some extremely nice compliments regarding the way that we carried ourselves during our time there. This was extremely humbling. We talked for about 20 minutes and then we went our separate ways. On the way home, I reflected on that experience as well as my time training at that gym. It made me realize how fortunate I am to be able to work for and train at a gym as professional as Union Fitness, and how great of members we truly are.


During my time at Union Fitness, I have seen strangers become friends, communities and bonds built, fears overcome, and countless goals set and achieved. I have also seen members who have not only stayed consistent with their training, but who have educated and evolved  throughout the process. At the same time, I have seen our amazing staff evolve simultaneously, while educating and caring for each and every member just as they would for their own self. I truly believe that we have the best team and members of any place I’ve ever been to. I think we often take for granted the things we have as we become so accustomed to having them in our daily lives and routines. We aren’t perfect, however, as long as we continue to learn and grow just as we have, we will continue to evolve into an even better, stronger community. I want to thank all of you for everything that you have done to make Union Fitness, our home, such an amazing place to be.


– Curtis Miller

Combating Personal Weaknesses in the Weight Room

We all have our own strengths and weaknesses, whether that be in the weight room or just life in general. Have you ever been to a job interview or completed a yearly performance review with your manager and they asked you to talk about your strengths and weaknesses and how you could improve on them? I want you to take the time and think about this for a few seconds and reflect on what you believe your biggest strengths and weaknesses are within the weight room specifically. You may only have 1 weakness, or you may have 5+, and that’s okay because there are no right or wrong answers here as everyone is different.


We all like to show off our strengths because we are proud of what we have overcome and what we can accomplish. Whether we hit a PR or hit a set that looks impressive, we want to show the progress that we are making and that we are strong. One thing that most (if not all) of us could do a better job of is getting out of our comfort zone and embracing our weaknesses when it comes to lifting instead of hiding them.


Most of us tend to stick to what makes us the most comfortable and to what comes easy/what we enjoy doing the most. We continue to perform the same exercises that we are used to doing and that we have already mastered. For me personally, I struggle with getting out of my comfort zone when it comes to lifting. I recently worked with Curtis on programming for me to train for my first powerlifting meet. When we were brainstorming exercises, I was unfamiliar with quite a few of them. Aside from being unfamiliar with some of the exercises, there were also some that he put out there that I have always disliked doing so I have avoided them for quite some time.


Throughout my training, I have learned to embrace the suck and do the exercises that I have been avoiding for months just because I wasn’t good at them and didn’t like doing them. I have learned to get out of my comfort zone and take on the new exercises no matter how different, difficult, or how “silly” that they may look like to others, because I know that it will benefit me in the long run of training.


Go out and pinpoint your weaknesses, and then create a plan of attack to conquer them. Growth and change are never easy, but the benefits that you will gain are worth it.




Using Cues During Training

Cues are a great tool in helping fix or improve any exercise or movement pattern. The best part with cues is that there are so many different options that can all be beneficial at some point. Each person is slightly different as to which cues will have the greatest impact on them.


These various cues can be internal or external. For example: in a hang clean an internal cue might be to extend the hips and an external cue might be to jump as high as you can. Internal cues refer to something within the body while external cues refer to something outside of the body or reference some sort of visualization movement.


With most of the people I coach, I find that external cues have a greater impact because they can better understand and apply the movement to a concept that they are already familiar with. Asking someone to abduct their femur might sound like a foreign language to them and thus the cue is useless. Asking them to think about driving their knees towards the walls on either side of them might make a bit more sense and have a more positive impact on the movement pattern.


The key here is understanding when to use cues in your own training. I find cues can become overwhelming and it is easy to start thinking about 100 different cues for one movement. Now that I’m thinking about 100 different things, I’ve lost focus on the task at hand. For example, when going for a maximal effort squat it can be easy to think about so many things: back tight, head back into the bar, knees out, screw your feet into the ground, brace into your belt, etc. For me, I know that if I think about all of those during a heavy squat, I will most likely miss the squat because I’m losing focus on the actual task at hand – squat down and stand back up.


As a coach it is so easy to throw out a million cues a day at the athletes I get to work with. However, I need to remember two things: 1. How would I perform if I was thinking about a bunch of different cues and ideas all at once? 2. Often athletes can feel when a movement is not perfect and can autoregulate themselves. The next rep is usually significantly better because they felt what went wrong. Further, week 1 of a new exercise usually will have some hiccups and not look the best. However, without any cueing or corrections the following week when they come back to that same exercise their motor pattern is usually naturally better because the body remembers what to do and how it feels. Week 1 with an athlete my cues are usually very simple to make sure they are not going to hurt themselves doing the movement. Week 2 and on can be more of a time to use more cues to refine the pattern as needed.


My overall point here is that cues can be super helpful to fix and refine any movement pattern. However, do not drown yourself in too many as it will be easy to lose sight of the original task at hand. Stay focused on your overall goal and use cues to help without losing sight of the end goal.



June’s Member Spotlight

Hello, I’m Lisa! I was born Congolese (from DRC), I speak French, lived in Belgium, and then I grew up and got my master’s degree as an Industrial Engineer in electronics. I lived in Belgium until the end of 2016.


Then, I got bored and went to work in Spain for 2.5 years. That’s where my fitness journey started, with CrossFit. I discovered that working out was not only great for losing weight, but was also very useful to get strong, and that quickly became my goal (that satisfaction when I lift heavy is gold to me).


In the summer of 2019, I arrived in Pittsburgh for a new project. I stuck to CrossFit for 1.5 years but being strong and lifting heavy became more important to me than being fast and good at gymnastics, so one of my coaches recommended me to check out Union Fitness, which I did at the end of 2020. Starting with the Powerful classes, and then following up with a programming tailored for me by the great Curtis Miller! His knowledge and patience have been helping me to get stronger physically and mentally every week.


Fun facts about me?


  1. I’m a sneaker addict, and not even trying to heal from it.
  2. I see music in color which is somehow helpful when I have to play keys.
  3. I speak different languages, which is cool at first, but makes me invent words that exist in none of them
  4. I always have a loooooot of questions in my brain


I’m really grateful to be part of the Union fitness community, it’s definitely a place that feels good to be fully yourself, and around people (staff and members) that push themselves and you to be better!


À bientôt !! ”




Commonplace Outreach Bootcamp

Unioners, Coffee Drinkers, and Friends of Friends, do we have a Sunday Funday for you!


Join CeJ and the crew this Sunday, June 26th in the Mexican War streets for a FREE bootcamp at Commonplace Coffee. After our Sunday sweat session, Union will buy your first coffee at Commonplace. The bootcamp is FREE but we will be accepting donations made out to Bridge Outreach of Northside. Here is the website link for more information about the group Nonprofit | Bridge Outreach | Pittsburgh (  Here is the why behind Bridge Outreach “Based in Pittsburgh, PA: We are a team of dedicated individuals connecting those in all walks of life to resources meant to alleviate a myriad of challenges, including, but not limited to: housing instability, food insecurity, medical and mental health inaccessibility, and unsafe substance-use.


Often, helping-organizations locate an “at-risk” community and enter it with an expertise, agenda, and hypothesis for change and betterment. Bridge Outreach, rather, seeks to meet people where and how they are. We utilize a trauma-informed and humanistic approach, understanding people as holistic individuals unique in their stories and capable of determining their own goals and behaviors. We are relationship focused— patiently forming bonds and friendships to build and foster community while addressing the needs and challenges presented in daily life.


We are privileged to be welcomed into a beautiful community of individuals living life on the streets as we continue to learn from and listen to the voices of those we encounter.”



Commonplace Coffee 1501 Buena Vista St, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.



Friday June 26th 11AM- 12PM.



Sunday Funday, hold onto your butts and get caffeinated for a good cause bootcamp.



To kick off your Sunday Funday, promote health & wellness, drink local coffee from our good friends at Commonplace & support Nonprofit | Bridge Outreach | Pittsburgh (



Anyone and everyone who would like to join us can attend this Free event. You can sign up at Union’s website under the class tab or just show up and say hello.


Also remember to go to and nominate UF for the best gym in town. You can vote every day..WOW!


Stay tuned my friends and come down to party with us!




Union Fitness Run Club

Hey Union Fitness Fam!! Looking to start running more this summer? You’re in luck!! Starting June 24th at 7 am, we will start our weekly running club. Run club is open to all levels of running ability- beginners all the way up to marathoners.


Each week I will share out our planned loop and mileage options. The workout will include a warm-up and an optional cool-down. As we gauge interest and training goals the mileage and workout type will shift to help you reach those goals! Sign up on MindBody & keep an eye on Union’s Instagram story for our first running loop map! Let’s get after it!!!



Power Yoga for Power Lifting

It was a hot day in Tallahassee, Florida because, well, it was always hot in Tallahassee.  I decided to try a yoga class for the first time and the year was a distant 2008.  I remember it being more difficult than I expected.  I remember feeling defeated because I wasn’t any good at it.  I remember wanting more.


It is funny how those things sneak up on you.


I guess we should go back further.


Hello all! My name is Meagan and though I have met some of you, there are still so many to meet! I teach fusion on Sunday and am a substitute yoga instructor here at UF.  I’ve been around since 2019-ish but very casually.  When I’m not at the gym, which is much less than I would prefer, I am finishing my doctoral degree in nurse anesthesia.  When I tell you I am amped up on adrenaline, caffeine, stress, and on the struggle bus for sleep…believe you, me!  Trust that when I say yoga has been instrumental in helping me manage emotion, stress, and breath during some of the most challenging clinical situations and during some heavy classroom work.


When school and clinical don’t get in the way, I love taking a powerful class with Curtis and CJ; the benefits both physically and mentally of lifting heavy are ASTRONOMICAL! There is nothing like pushing around some heavy weights to feel empowered in your body and strength.


Let’s jump back in!  Before 2008, that first yoga class, I kept busy with a multitude of sports and activities.  I was a high school athlete and chose not to explore college athletics but used that time for personal fitness like swimming, lifting, and running.  Soon after that first yoga class, I became a regular and after moving to Pittsburgh would require it for my mental health and to navigate the stress of my new job as a veterinary technician in the operating room at PVSEC.  The next few years would find me diving deeper into my practice with a yoga teaching training in Costa Rica which lead to a 7 year stretch of teaching power yoga at Urban Elements and Cycology.  I also became Real Ryder certified at UEC and am so happy to bring those skills to the members of UF!


Yeah, yeah, yeah.  But what does that all mean for ME? What about yoga is so great that I should give it a try?! How can I even do yoga; I can’t touch my toes! Plus, it is not an intense workout and I’m here to burn fat and make gainz!!


I’m so glad you asked.  If you’ve ever taken a lifting class here at UF, you have done a sweet warm up that, unbeknownst to you, was heavy on the yoga!  Most of the stretches that both Curt and CJ use have some roots in yoga.  Stay tuned for a breakdown to come on UF’s IG page!


We know yoga can help promote flexibility and is utilized for stretching, but what else?


According to literature on yoga and powerlifting, some of the benefits include:

  • Identifying imbalances between sides
    • This allows you to work on creating balance which will improve how you move weight and how weight can be moved. Balance also keeps you standing upright and trust me, you don’t want to break a hip as you get older!
  • Improves core strength
    • As you know, every lift starts with an activated core. A strong core supports your low back as well which can stave off or heal low back pain.
  • Improves mobility
    • It is no secret that most powerlifters struggle with hip mobility. This lack of mobility can affect the bar path during a squat, squat depth, and can also inhibit bench press arch and Sumo deadlifts. Improved mobility =improved performance.
  • Help with breath control
    • Creating intraabdominal pressure during heavy lifts is integral in moving max weight. Success can be made or broken with poor breath control.  Yoga is based in the union between movement and breath and can be very beneficial in improving breath control during powerlifting.


These are just a few reasons that yoga can and has been shown to improve maximum weight in powerlifting practice and competition.  A quick internet search with provide more information on the science and a vast array or articles written on the subject.


Because of the offered benefits of yoga and both Curt and I identifying a need here at UF in the powerlifting community, we have put together a class specifically targeting powerlifters.  Power Yoga for Powerlifting will be held on Sunday, July 10, 20022 here at UF.  The class will be 75 minutes and include a brief opening discussion, a practice which will sample several different styles of yoga, a closing meditation, and time for questions, socializing, and refreshments at the end.  If you’ve ever been curious about yoga but felt shy or unsure, stop by on July 10th! It is certainly a class for everyone and who knows, maybe you’ll leave as I did in 2008…wanting more.



Self-Assess With The Overhead Squat

Self-assessment is one of our greatest tools for improvement in the gym. Self-assessment is done by recording ourselves doing specific movements and using the footage or pictures to see how we are moving. Using self assessment, we can point out imbalances or weak points in our bodies during a certain exercise and begin to strengthen those areas. Doing this will lead to better movement which will help with injury prevention and longevity in the gym. My favorite exercise to use to assess movement is the overhead squat.


The Overhead Squat

This single movement allows you to assess several potential imbalances and weak points at once, including mobility, favoring one side over the other during the movement, and which of your muscles may be over- or underactive.

An overhead squat is pretty simple to perform. You begin by placing your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes pointed slightly outward. Next, square your hips and shoulders forward. After that, extend your arms above your head. Once you’re in this top position, you can start squatting down. Slowly push your butt back and bend your knees as if you are sitting in a chair. Continue this motion until you reach a point where you can’t lower down anymore. From here, stand back up. If you are doing a self assessment, be sure to record the movement from the front and the side.

This video will help us determine how certain joints (shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles) are moving.


Potential Weakness 1: Overactive Adductors/Underactive Glutes

If your knees are coming in toward each other while you squat (knee valgus), this could mean you have tight adductors and weak glutes. We could improve this area by regularly stretching our adductors through frog or butterfly poses. This will help tame those overactive areas. To restore balance, we should strengthen the underactive muscles—in this case, that’s the glutes. Doing things like banded walks or lying hip abductions will help with this.


Potential Weakness 2: Excessive Forward Lean

Another marker to look for is excessive forward lean as you squat down. This could indicate tight hip flexors and a weak lower back and is a common issue in those who are seated all day for work. If this is you, I would recommend lightly stretching your hip flexors and piriformis by doing figure four poses and kneeling runner’s lunges. The low back may also be underactive. Strengthen it through exercises like back extensions or superman holds. These exercises will strengthen and help you activate these muscles during movement.


This is an area I need to work on! I have a slight forward lean in my overhead squat. Another good indicator of this is to look at the back as a straight line and the shins as another line. If these two lines are not perfectly parallel, then there’s a slight forward lean.


Potential Weakness 3: Underactive Upper Back Muscles

Even though we think of the squat as a leg movement, it becomes a full body exercise when we place our hands overhead. This helps us assess the strength of our upper back muscles. If our arms fall forward while squatting, we can assume that our pec and lat muscles are more than likely tight, which brings your trunk forward.

Now, after reading a few examples, you know that if there are overactive or tight muscles, there are more than likely underactive muscles in that area as well. In this case, the underactive muscles would include the muscles of your rotator cuff and mid back. To release or stretch out the pec muscles and lats, I highly recommend getting a massage or using a doorway pec stretch. Foam rolling will also be helpful in relaxing the muscles for exercise but isn’t a long-term solution. To strengthen those underactive rotator cuff muscles, we can do things like external and internal rotation band work as well as face pulls on a cable column.


Refine Your Training Based on Your Results

The results of the assessment in and of themselves are neither good nor bad. What is important is using this information to refine your training and improve your weak points. We all have different body shapes, mechanics, and functional abilities, so using a test like this is not a cut-and-paste method. That said, it does give you a better understanding of how your body is moving in its current state. Use the information you learned from this self-assessment and upgrade the way you think about your training. What are your weak points (underactive muscles) and where are the muscles that might be a little overactive or tight during movements? If you have any questions about exercises or stretches you can do feel free to ask next time you see a trainer in the gym.