Category Archives: Life Health

The Benefits of Yoga: Beyond Flexibility and Stress Relief

Since it has been practiced for thousands of years, yoga is becoming more and more popular all over the world. Although many people think of yoga as a means of increasing flexibility and reducing stress, the benefits of the practice go far beyond these well-known benefits. We’ll explore the many advantages of yoga in this blog post, as well as how adding it to your routine can improve your general health.


What is Yoga?

In order to enhance one’s physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, yoga incorporates breathing techniques, physical postures, meditation, and ethical concepts. Yoga comes in a wide variety of forms, from intense forms like Vinyasa and Ashtanga to more restorative forms like Hatha and Yin.


Physical Benefits of Yoga

1. Increased Flexibility:

One of the most well-known benefits of yoga is improved flexibility. Regular practice helps lengthen and stretch muscles, making it easier to move and reducing the risk of injuries.


2. Improved Strength:

Yoga poses require you to support your body weight in various ways, building strength in muscles that may not be used regularly in other forms of exercise. This includes core strength, which is crucial for overall stability and balance.


3. Enhanced Balance and Coordination:

Many yoga poses challenge your balance and coordination. Improved balance can prevent falls and injuries.


4. Better Posture:

Yoga emphasizes body alignment and awareness, which can lead to improved posture. Good posture reduces strain on the spine and helps prevent back and neck pain.


5. Increased Blood Flow and Circulation:

The various postures and breathing exercises in yoga promote better blood flow and circulation. This can lead to improved cardiovascular health and reduced risk of chronic diseases.


6. Boosted Immune System:

Yoga can strengthen the immune system by reducing stress and inflammation, improving circulation, and stimulating the lymphatic system, which helps fight infections.


Mental and Emotional Benefits of Yoga

1. Stress Reduction:

Yoga is renowned for its stress-relieving properties. The combination of physical activity, controlled breathing, and meditation helps calm the mind, reduce cortisol levels, and promote relaxation.


2. Improved Focus and Concentration:

Yoga requires mindfulness and concentration, which can enhance your ability to focus in other areas of your life. This mental clarity can lead to better decision-making and productivity.


3. Enhanced Mood and Emotional Well-Being:

Regular yoga practice can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. The release of endorphins during exercise, coupled with the calming effects of deep breathing and meditation, contributes to an overall sense of well-being.


4. Better Sleep:

Yoga can improve the quality of your sleep by promoting relaxation and reducing stress. Certain poses and breathing techniques can help prepare your body and mind for a restful night’s sleep.


5. Increased Self-Awareness:

Yoga encourages introspection and self-awareness, helping you become more in tune with your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. This heightened awareness can lead to personal growth and a deeper understanding of yourself.


Yoga provides a comprehensive approach to health and wellbeing that is good for the body, mind, and soul. You may increase your level of inner calm, lower stress, sharpen your mind, and improve your physical health by adding yoga into your regimen. Accept the trip and see for yourself how yoga may change your life.



Self Accountability

What’s up everyone! Today I wanted to take the time to talk about Self-Accountability and how it could be the reason that you may not be obtaining the results that you would like with your fitness goals.

In my opinion, we have one of the best staff in Pittsburgh with our trainers and coaches. They have superb knowledge, are good people, have the ability to empathize, and can guide you in the right direction. If they don’t have the knowledge on a particular topic, they also always seek out more information from others to learn on that particular topic or they will dive into research with peer reviewed articles or case studies.

Although our trainers and coaches are great at Union Fitness, they can only guide you in the right direction and can only push you to a certain degree. For example, when I am doing initial consultations with potential clients, they come in with these awesome goals and large aspirations that are 100% obtainable. However, they fail to realize that sessions tend to be only 1-3 times a week. The hard truth that some people need to learn is that working out once a week, twice a week, or even three times a week is not enough in the long run to reach their particular goal. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 300 to 450 minutes of exercise a week to achieve maximum health gains. This means that even if you are training three times a week with a trainer, it’s not enough to achieve your goals. You would need to do some type of activity on your own without a coach or trainer that way you are doing enough to reach your goals.

In my own experience in training with clients, the clients that see the best results are the ones that did extra work outside of our sessions. It could be exercise that I programmed myself for them, an outside source like another gym or classes, or something that they enjoy and are comfortable doing on their own.

To bring things back full circle, this means there needs to be some type of self-accountability when you are on your own. At the end of the day, it comes down to the client and what they are willing to do to reach their goals. Exercising once, twice, or three times a week is definitely great and if that’s all you can muster then that is fine too but there are definitely gains being left on the table. So if you are a current client and are reading this, do not be afraid to ask your trainer for extra programming to do on your own. This will speed up the process of your goals and make things more obtainable.

In conclusion, I am writing this blog to simply provide information to our members and whoever might be reading this. My intention is to not make anyone feel bad or to call anyone out. We often look to blame others for our issues, problems, or lack of progress in our lives but sometimes it takes a hard look in the mirror. Am I really doing everything I could be doing  to achieve my goals? Am I exercising with intent rather than going through the motions? That is for you to decide! Again, I want to reiterate that I am trying to give you a gentle nudge to push you in the right direction. That way you can be your happiest and best self!

I’ll leave you with this. You could have all the money in the world, the best trainers in the world, the best coaches in the world, the best support in the world, and the best nutritionists in the world, but if you do not execute and remain self disciplined then you will not get the results that you would like.

I hope this blog helps some of you out that are struggling with your goals. Do not give up and always strive for more! You will be surprised at how durable, resilient, and mentally strong you really are and can become. It will not be easy, but if it was easy then everyone would do it.


Comfort: Our Own Worst Enemy

From an early age most of us have been taught or programmed to think that comfort equals happiness and that we should take the path of least resistance. While comfort can help with unwinding after a long day and may give temporary relief, it can do more harm than good if comfort is the only thing you seek. Comfort is like a drug, and once you have it, it is extremely difficult to change that habit. What can tend to happen is that we bleed our dopamine system dry of happiness through constant scrolling, drugs, alcohol, binge watching tv or gambling because it gives us that temporary comfort or happiness. We stop doing the things that we used to do and instead focus on getting our dopamine fix to feel somewhat happy for a very brief period of time. This then creates a habit that prevents us from growing professionally, spiritually, or socially. This lack of growth, whether we realize it intrinsically or not, creates the real root of our unhappiness. We realize we are not pursuing the best version of ourselves and this makes us restart the never ending cycle of getting our dopamine fix to only wake up the next day with bitterness. We repeat this constant cycle over and over again to the point where we can become bitter, depressed, or discontent with life. However, in saying all of this above, the good thing is that this can all be prevented! From my own opinion, the pursuit of something bigger that makes us uncomfortable is actually what makes us happy. Basically, forcing ourselves to be uncomfortable and doing extremely difficult tasks makes us feel better about ourselves because we are growing in some type of manner. This gives us a sense of purpose, confidence, some control of our lives and ultimately allows us to create our own happiness. So after reading all of this, I challenge you all to be more disciplined, to set goals, to be your true self, and strive for growth rather than comfort. It is 100% okay to unwind here and there with whatever makes you feel comfortable but just don’t make it a habit that consumes your life. The people that choose an easy life tend to have a hard or unhappy life but the people who choose a hard life tend to have an easier or happy life. The same way that dogs need physical activity to be happy, humans also need mental stimulation and problem solving to be happy. Get comfortable being uncomfortable and always strive for growth UF fam!


Gainz out!!

The Power of Music

As you prepare to go to the gym there are a couple of essentials that you always bring with you. Phone, wallet, keys, water bottle, airpods (or headphones), and other lifting equipment. While you are beginning your lift, you put on your headphones and choose the music you want to listen to as you begin your lift. It seems so routine and a natural part of getting ready to lift that it is often overlooked. Think about the days that you forget to bring your headphones. The lift doesn’t feel as exciting and it is hard to really lock in and focus. You may also feel like your lifts are not as strong as they usually are.


Whenever I get to the gym before I do anything else, I put on my headphones and choose a song depending on the mood I am in and what I will be hitting. If I am in a sad mood, I will often turn to my sad playlist. If I am ready to attack my workout and have an intense workout, I will usually turn to rap first to warm up and then to hardstyle/remixes. Whether I am in a sad mood or in an intense mood, the music amplifies those feelings immensely. I have seen research done saying that music actually does increase your power output by a certain percentage. Now, I don’t really know the validity to that particular study, however, when working out it almost certainly feels that way.


Music has a way of tapping into your mood and being able to explain it through a song that words can’t really explain. It allows you to really feel the emotion that you are feeling to the max which in turn allows you to have a better workout. I feel like many gym members can attest to this because a nice jazz song is not going to really tap into your emotions and allow you to feel that while lifting (for most people). There are definitely song genres out there that do not allow those emotions to be tapped into.


Let’s try to think about it another way. Imagine you are going for a PR on a squat, bench, or deadlift. You are in a gym with a couple people around doing their own workout/exercise. You have no one around to hype you up or any music playing. This makes the PR much harder for some reason that cannot be explained. Now, imagine going for a PR on a squat, bench, or deadlift. You are surrounded by many people yelling, encouraging, and hyping you up. You have that PR song in your headphones or playing from the speakers. While going for the PR, the extra sound and motivation from others allow you to push a tad bit more to hit the PR. It is unexplainable, but there is that motivational factor that music and surrounding yourself with others that pushes you that extra mile to hit the PR.


Music is such an important contributor to the lifting community. Having something to listen to while you lift really allows you to push that much further for another rep or another set.


Ricky Cho

Reminder to Celebrate the Small W’s

As we set grand and lofty goals, we often lose sight of our reasons for pursuing them.


Many of us are inherently ambitious, setting our sights on challenging goals that give us purpose. Nowhere is this more evident than in the fitness community. Individuals strive to achieve milestones like adding 200 pounds to their squat, shedding 50 pounds to slim down, or breaking the barrier of a sub 5-minute-mile. While these objectives provide motivation even on the days we lack enthusiasm for working out, they can also lead to tunnel vision, where nothing matters but reaching these benchmarks. Activities that once brought joy and excitement can start to feel burdensome, akin to a job. This tunnel vision can be detrimental, causing individuals to overlook the progress they’ve already made and ultimately diminish their enjoyment of fitness pursuits.


It is essential to reflect on where you began and acknowledge how far you have come. Gratitude for your health and celebrating small victories are crucial. Above all, cherish and relish your fitness pursuits while you still have the ability to engage in them.



The Best Exercise You Don’t Want to Miss

It is no secret that fitness coaches and trainers will debate over what kind of exercise is best for people. Whether it is weight training, aerobic activity, yoga, certain programs, speed work, plyometrics, sprinting, or HIIT, every fitness professional is biased to what they learned or how they currently train. All forms of exercise have their benefits in slightly different ways. But in general, they all promote a healthier and happier life. For example, HIIT training or high intensity interval training is extremely beneficial for your heart and brain. It decreases your risk of cardiovascular disease and/or can prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia through the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Another example, is weight training. Weight training has many benefits including building stronger and healthier muscles as well as boosting your metabolism. To build on this even further, yoga can help with mental health as well as increasing your flexibility. This increase in flexibility will aid in preventing injuries in the future.


In saying all of this, you might be asking what is the best exercise routine? Well, that’s where I am here to tell you that the best exercise routine is the one that you can stick to. In short, all exercise is extremely beneficial for you. So do the exercise that keeps you coming back to the gym or pushing yourself. If you love powerlifting then keep powerlifting, if you love running then keep on running, and if you love doing plyometrics then keep on doing your plyometrics. Sometimes we over complicate our exercise routines and forget why we exercise in the first place. We exercise to feel better mentally and physically. Movement is life! As soon as you stop moving then that’s when your body starts to fall apart. So, everyone who is reading this please do me a favor, never stop moving your body and always strive forward!



Training With A Concussion

A few weeks ago, I was playing ice hockey and fell backwards during one of our practice game drills. For those of you familiar with the game of hockey, you know that there is minimal padding on the backside of your body as you are supposed to fall forward or to the side when you play. Unfortunately, I lost control and caught my backwards fall with my head. I knew that I was doomed immediately because I did not remember what we were just doing or how I exactly fell. Luckily this happened with about five minutes left of practice, so I just left the ice and drove home. I was experiencing tension headaches, light and sound sensitivity, extreme fatigue, brain fog, and trouble with focusing while in busy environments.


I was able to get in with the UPMC Concussion Clinic doctors two days after it happened, so treatment began quickly. Since then, I have also started Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy once/week on top of my typical training here at UF. During my computer and physical assessments, the doctors found that my eyes are having trouble focusing and working together, and my short-term memory capacity is terrible.


Part of my concussion treatment program is to take part in exertional therapy, which is intended to induce my symptoms but will speed up my recovery process and have me feeling better soon. If any of you have ever had a concussion, you know how difficult it can be to get back into your normal everyday routine without feeling fatigued and defeated. No matter how tired and weak I am feeling, I make it a point to do my exercises and train my brain and the rest of my body daily.


Here’s a quick overview of what my exercise program looks like for someone with the specific type of concussion and symptoms that I have:


  1. Brock String – hold a string with colored beads at eye level starting at the tip of your nose – shift focus between the beads until you begin to see two beads of every color while focusing on one at a time. Continue working through each colored bead, focusing individually on each one at a time. Repeat 10 times.


  1. Pencil “pushups” – hold the pencil at arms length away and focus on the tip of the pencil – bring the pencil in towards your nose and when it becomes double try to make it clear – then bring the pencil back outwards and repeat. Repeat for 3 sets of 10.


  1. Vertical & Horizontal Saccades – moving the eyes up and down and then on a diagonal from each target (a piece of paper with an X drawn on it) as quick as you can for 30 seconds in each direction. Repeat 3 times.


  1. Walk in a straight line while moving your head up and down then walking in a straight line while moving your head side to side. Repeat each movement down and back 3 times.


  1. Backwards ball tosses with a partner – stand with your back facing your partner behind you – toss the ball to one side and when your partner catches it, have them toss to the opposite side (shown in video on Instagram). Repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps/side.


  1. Vertical ball movement – hold the ball in front of you – extend the ball up overhead and then follow it with your eyes/head down to the ground. Repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps.


  1. Visit a busy environment as often as I can (grocery store, gym, etc.) – since I work in a gym that hasn’t been an issue. This will help me out with my sensitivity to movement, sounds, lights, etc.


  1. I have added in 20 minutes of cardio/day. I’ve been riding the Ryde bikes or a recumbent bike if the Ryde bikes aren’t available for 10 minutes at a moderate intensity, and then hopping on the treadmill for a 10-minute incline walk or 10-12 minute run/walk intervals. If I am at home and the weather stinks, I will ride the Peloton bike for 20-25 minutes that day.


I don’t think I’m forgetting anything here, but this is my very basic treatment program that I just started following this past week. I am hoping to add in some more heavy weights and a higher intensity of cardio in this upcoming week.


If you have any past concussion experience and would like to talk about how you dealt with it whether that be training or just existing, I would love to chat!


Hope you all have a great rest of your week,


Significance of Mentorship

Hello everyone,


With Christmas and New Years right around the corner, I took the time to reflect on this past year on my own accomplishments. I got hired full time at Union Fitness as the head personal trainer, I finished my master’s degree in clinical exercise physiology, I have lost over 20 lbs this year, and I also found my passion and love for fitness again. After appreciating my own self growth, it also made it abundantly clear how important some people have been in my life over the past few years. Without them, I can honestly say that some of my success would not have been capable. So, in saying all of this, I wanted to give a brief story of some of these awesome people and highlight the importance of mentorship.


The first person I want to bring up is Dr. Sally Sherman. If you do not know her, she is a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, an academic advisor at Pitt, a mother, a wife, and an ultra-endurance athlete. She was also my professor, my academic advisor during my bachelor’s degree in exercise science, and one of the professors who spoke on my behalf to get me into the Masters of Clinical Exercise Physiology program at Pitt. During my time in undergrad, I was at a point where I thought I may not graduate on time due to a lack of credits needed to graduate. As most people would understand, I immediately began to panic at the thought of not graduating with my peers. I instantly emailed Dr. Sherman to explain the situation and to see if she was available later in the week to discuss the issue at hand. Dr Sherman at the drop of a dime, emailed me back and told me to call her asap. Keep in mind that this was at 8pm after she was done with work and she was at home with her family. I called her at that instant and she helped me devise a plan to graduate on time. In that moment, I had a huge sense of relief and without her I would not have known what to do. I also realized after that phone call, that Dr Sherman was one of the kindest and best people I have ever met. She goes above and beyond in all her duties as a professor, as an academic advisor, a mother, a wife, and an ultra-endurance athlete. I am extremely thankful to have had the opportunity to engage and learn from her. I cannot emphasize how great of a person she is. Thank you Dr Sherman!!!!


The next person I want to talk about is Curtis Miller. Almost everyone knows who Curt is at Union Fitness. He was the previous head personal trainer at Union Fitness and I had to fill his giant shoes after he moved on to bigger and better things. He is a world class powerlifter, a great trainer, an awesome coach, extremely smart in all things fitness or car related, and a pretty cool guy as well (emphasis on pretty). All jokes aside, one of the best memories I have with him is when I was on the Pitt Powerlifting Club. As most people often experience, I was kind of nervous beginning my training in the strength lab at Union. There were a lot of extremely strong people and for some reason even though most of the people training in the back are the nicest people on the planet, I thought they would bite my head off because of how strong they were. I knew that in order for me to grow I had to be in that environment and try to learn from the strongest in Pittsburgh. The first person I asked for advice from was Curt. I asked him to take a look at my deadlift to see if there was anywhere I could improve to get stronger. One thing lead to another and he ended up spending 30+ minutes of his own time to help me. He did not get paid any extra for helping me but decided to teach me something anyway. I will never forget that and I think it truly exemplifies his character. He is willing to help anyone and everyone, he is willing to listen when you need someone to talk to, and he often puts other people before himself. He has taught me so much since I trained, interned, and worked at Union. I am extremely grateful for his guidance, knowledge, and wisdom. I can honestly say that has helped me become a better trainer, a better leader, and ultimately a better person. Thank you Curtis!!!


These are just two people over the past few years that have helped me. There are numerous others and if I left you out, then please don’t take an insult to it. These two were just the ones who stuck out most as of late.


I have always hated the term “self-made.” In my own opinion, not a single person on this planet is “self-made.” We all go through adversity or hard times and sometimes we rely on others to help us out. So, if you have time today, go thank someone who you have looked at as a mentor, find someone that can mentor you, or be a mentor to someone else. The act of each of us helping one another will make the world a better place for the next generations. You certainly will not regret mentorship when you find a good person to aid you or when you get to step in the mentorship role to help someone else. I think mentorship is pivotal to growth and success. If we are not seeking growth then what is the point?


Just some food for thought! If you read the whole blog then cheers to you!


Zain Trainz

Push Outside Of Your Comfort Zone

Three weeks ago, I made a Motivation Monday post about challenging you all to push outside of your comfort zone and to strive for something you have always wanted to achieve.


After I made that post, I decided to go ahead and do something way outside of my comfort zone. I spent the evening browsing different local recreational sports teams and things to do to keep me busy during this upcoming Winter season. I decided that I wanted to sign up for something that I have always wanted to do, but never got around to trying it, which was to play hockey. Originally, I was going to sign up for a local Dek Hockey team, but there weren’t any with open sign ups currently. I was bummed, but then I decided to why not go even further out of my comfort zone? And as a result, I signed up to play Ice Hockey instead. I knew how to skate but had no idea how to properly stop and skate backwards and I had no protective gear that I needed to wear as well. So that weekend I went out and got everything that I needed and have been practicing my skating skills a few times a week. I’m proud to say that I finally learned how to stop (without just running into the boards) and am looking forward to my future in playing recreational Ice Hockey.


A cool addition to this story is that I inspired two of my friends to join me on this journey as well. My advice is to go out and try something new, push outside of your comfort zone, and maybe you will inspire someone else to do the same!



The Great 8 Movement Patterns

Gobble Gobble to all my November readers and a most crispy Fall to you all.


Have you ever carried all the groceries from your car to the house in one mighty attempt? Have you ever knelt down to tie your shoes? Have you ever lifted your pet in the air as Rafiki did to young Simba? If you said yay to any of these actions, then you’ve completed what the scientific meat-heads call functional movement patterns. Functional movements are real life biomechanical situations that we put our bodies through. Functional movement involves multiple joint movements across various planes of motion. During these complex planes of motion, we the people are utilising many muscles at once to complete these tasks. Many of these functional movements are daily tasks of living that we don’t even consider taxing, strenuous or exercising. Building in these movement patterns or portions of the movement into your exercise routine will help improve your quality of life and resilience.


Before we get to the movements, here are 4 big reasons to add the great 8 movement patterns into your exercise routine. First, we can improve movement efficiency by completing a wide range of motions that we perform every day. The more we train these movements and progress them, we can continue to perform these movements more easily. The second reason leads to increased coordination and balance. By performing these movements in the gym, you will improve overall; strength, balance, coordination and control over time. Thirdly, who wouldn’t want to be more flexible with better overall mobility? Putting our muscles through their full range of motion will help increase flexibility and mobility. This is something we could all use after those long days in the office or binging the holiday Lord of The Rings franchise marathon. Last but not least the addition of these movement patterns can help with the reduction and prevention of injuries. Training your body through movements that you complete every day can help us adapt to the applied stress and become stronger and more resilient. This will also give us more energy to do the same task with less energy or to do more overall work with the energy you have.


Now, brace for impact as I give you the Great 8 Movement Patterns and some exercises that can go along with them.


1) Squat: Front Squat, Fat Bar Zercher Squat, Belted PitShark Squat, Goblet Squat, Barbell Overhead Squat.


2) Hinge: Trap Bar Deadlift, Kettlebell Romanian Deadlift, Single Leg Glute Bridge, Stability Ball Hamstring Curl, Banded Good Morning.


3) Lunge: Dumbbell Lateral Lunge, Kettlebell Step-Ups, Safety Bar Reverse Lunges, Plate Walking Lunge, Body Weight Curtsy Lunge


4) Push: Push-Ups, Dumbbell Bench Press, Barbell Overhead Press, Kettlebell Z-Press, Medicine Ball Press.


5) Pull: Lat Pulldowns, Band Assisted Chin-Ups, T-Bar Rows, Chest Supported Dumbbell Rows, Banded Face Pulls.


6) Rotation: Medicine Ball Chops, Palloff Rotations, Kettlebell Turkish Get-Up, Cable Low to High Rotations, Plank Reach and Pull Through.


7) Carry & Brace: Farmer’s Handle Weighted Carry, Plate Overhead Marches, Kettlebell Off-set Carry, Weighted Plank, Hollow Hold, Banded Dead Bug.


8) Locomotion (Run, Jump, Throw): Stair Sprints, Box Jumps, Medicine Ball Toss, Prowler Push, Skips, Medicine Ball Slam.


Do your body a favor and add these movement patterns into your exercise routine, your future self will thank you. If you’d like to learn more about these movements or how to add them into your routine, I am always here to help.


Don’t forget to sign up for our Thanksgiving day Turkey burn #Powerful & Ryde Dynamic Bootcamp class.


As Always, get bumpy my friends.