Category Archives: Fitness

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.





New Class, What is Old is New Again

We are excited to bring back an old class with a new twist, and one of our throwback trainers. Racheal (from cardiolab and bootcamp fame) is back! Powerful Bootcamp is also back!


The new and improved Powerful Bootcamp will be a little different. We will have this bootcamp on Monday and Wednesday night from 6:30PM-7:30PM. On Monday evenings the class will be held in the cardio lab and we will be using the weights that we now have in the cardio lab, be prepared for a mix of weights, cardio, and a great playlist from Racheal. Wednesdays will be an outdoor bootcamp with two instructors, and we will use a different location each week. The locations will be within a half of a mile of UF and will use the natural topography of our region to train. If weather does not permit us to go outside we have some special plans using our buildings here at NoVA Place.


The class is being designed a good compliment to our Powerful class. It will involved some aspects of strength training, yet will be more focused on conditioning and getting outside to enjoy the natural environment.


This class will begin May 3rd and will continue with the outdoor work as long as the weather permits.



20 Years and 20 Lessons

I have competed in one form or another in powerlifting for over two decades now. It may be a bit longer but I ain’t counting. No matter how long it has been here are a few things I learned along the way.


  1. Consistency is the only thing that works in any program.
  2. Stop looking for a coach and start looking for training partners.
  3. Know that you don’t know and learn from everyone.
  4. Somedays it is best to throw the program out and train with the group.
  5. If your gym doesn’t allow chalk, find a new gym.
  6. Find those stronger than you and follow them.
  7. Respect the IRON.
  8. Respect others training around you.
  9. Be patient, results take time and return to lesson one, consistency.
  10. Ride the wave. Somedays you are not in control and that’s OK.
  11. Don’t throw out the program because of one failure.
  12. What works today may not work tomorrow.
  13. What may not have worked in the past may work tomorrow.
  14. Over time how you approach each lift may change (this could be mental or physical).
  15. There is only three reasons you aren’t getting stronger (fear of pain, fear of weight, fear of injury).
  16. The pendulum will always swing too far. Whatever you think is right today will be assumed to be wrong tomorrow.
  17. You have two ears and one mouth. Listen twice as much as you speak.
  18. Most deadlifts aren’t missed they are given up on.
  19. Quitting is OK. If you don’t love it don’t do it. If you love it then keep fighting.
  20. Make this a team sport. Enrich your life through the sport.


This is my short list with an assist from Curtis Miller.



Sugar, Sugar, Sugar, and HFCS

The good old American diet, quick and assessable greasy fat or sugary foods. YUM, am I right? In America, there is heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and an obesity epidemic. There is room to point fingers at a lot of reasons but in this, we’ll focus on added sugars like high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  


HFCS was invented in 1965 and in the 70s it was being marketed. Over the years, this has been used more often for food and drink products. Which is found in most of the foods and drinks we consume (e.g. bread, soda, juice, canned fruit, cereal, & coffee creamers, etc). This has become a common ingredient because it is cheap and easy to manufacture. 


High-fructose corn syrup is an artificial sugar made from corn syrup. HFCS needs to be broken down into glucose, glycogen, or fat by the liver before being used as fuel. In America, the increased sugar consumption per person per year has greatly increased. This increase consumption can cause serious health issues mentioned in the beginning. Glucose will stimulate the area of your brain that controls appetite, whereas, fructose does not, which means you could eat more than planned. Are you wondering what overeating can lead to? Well, have you heard of visceral fat? It is the most harmful type of body fat. HFCS will promote visceral fat build-up on your major organs such as the liver, kidneys, pancreas, intestines, and heart. This can increase your risk for heart disease, stroke, artery disease, diabetes, and some cancers.


I’m not saying avoid HFCS or sugars at all costs. These sugars are everywhere and can be hard to avoid, especially in our more sedentary, grab-and-go society. Just try to be mindful of what you are putting into your body. 

Tis’ the Season for Outdoor Bootcamps

Good people of Union, the sun is shining and so are we!


We are excited to announce that our Summer Weekend Pop-Up Boot-camp classes will be popping up at locations near you very soon. We are looking forward to joining forces with local businesses in the Northside and Pittsburgh community to give you a little fun in the sun, explore Pittsburgh and support our local small businesses. These boot-camps will be open to members and nonmembers of all fitness levels. Our Bumpiest Coaches will be there to make sure you have fun, stay safe, get sweaty and make some new friends. We plan to make every boot-camp have some charitable donation to give back to the community that has given us Pittsburghers so much. Have no fear, we will give you enough of a heads up to come and crush these weekend (Saturday) bootcamps with us and who knows, there might even be a few prizes or drinks at the end.


We have a few places in mind but if you know of a local business that you want to support or a cool place you would like to have a pop-up at, please let us know and we can work to make that happen! Let’s get excited, shout this news from atop of the Mount Washington Inclines, get your friends and get Bumpy with our Summer Boot-camp series.


The very first bootcamp will be May 1st with our friends Allegheny City Brewing. ACB has been a good friend of UF for years now and we are excited to kick off our outdoor season with them.





The Little Things Matter

Why am I not getting stronger?  Why am I not losing weight? Why am I not feeling recovered?  Why am I so tired? Have you caught yourself asking similar questions, maybe even as a slight whine or complaint?


I hear these thoughts from others and I catch myself thinking it from time to time. While there is a possibility that the answer is more complicated, that is not my point with this blog.  More often than not the answer is so simple – so simple that we don’t even want to be reminded that the change needed is completely in our control.


When these thoughts start to pop up, it can be easy to combat that with the thought of quitting altogether. Sometimes that even sounds sensible in the moment. However, I know we are all logical enough to know that lashing out will not lead to anything productive.


There are two things that I have found to help bring back logic to my thoughts, refocus my plan of daily actions, and provide grace in the other areas of my life.  Before even mentioning the two tips, I must preface with something cliche.  You MUST know what you want and why you want it so badly.  Without a clear destination it will be challenging to determine the steps needed and the motivation to complete those steps on the difficult days.  Once you do know what you would like, it becomes easier to dial in on the little things.  So here are two things to think about:


  1. If you are following a program and beginning to experience a plateau, stick to the plan. There will come a time when it is appropriate and necessary to adjust, but if it has only been a short amount of time since the initial start or a recent adjustment, continue to follow the plan.
  2. This second part is a little bit harder. Be completely honest with yourself – writing it down or saying it out loud to someone helps me to think WHOOPS, yeah I am definitely not doing everything I can.
  • If it is about weight loss/weight gain, there is more than likely a minor adjustment that will be so apparent once you write it out. Are you eating five times the serving of nuts instead of one? Aside from your training session in the gym are you living more of a sedentary lifestyle than usual?
  • If you are not recovering, are you doing your recovery work or saying “ehh I’ll do it tomorrow”…everyday?
  • If you are feeling tired, what does your bedtime routine look like? Are you watching a few extra shows or maybe drinking caffeine a little too late?


As stated in the beginning, troubleshooting generally leads to these little things but there may be a time that you really are doing everything in your power.  If you find that is the case, I like to follow up with analyzing how I am prioritizing my time and effort.  Expecting yourself to succeed in every area of life at the same time is too much for anyone.


Once you know where your focus is at the time (your physical health, mental health, a project at work, a new season of life) these can be good ways to narrow down what needs to change and help provide peace of mind. That season will eventually change and life will hand you a new component to prioritize (or you will choose something else), which is perfectly fine.  New phases will certainly come again and you will soon have the chance to switch roles of effort and practice grace for the others.