Category Archives: Life Health

Setting your standard, and books to read

I worked in higher education for two decades, and I’ve also been a columnist for elitefts.com for nearly a decade. During this time, I’ve presented and spoke about standards and culture and how we do what we do. I believe most universities enjoy these meetings because they make people feel good about how they are investing their time at work. This isn’t an insult to higher education. It’s the truth of human nature.

 

 

A few years ago, I came up with my personal philosophy while sitting in one of these meetings. My philosophy fits into this saying: “To improve the student through and of the human body.” This was my standard, and today as general manager of Union Fitness (UF), the only thing that has changed is that instead of students, I’m trying to improve all who enter our doors. 

 

How do you set your standard?

 

At times, I find myself frustrated when someone does something differently than how I wanted it done. At that moment, I take a step back and remember that it’s my fault. As the leader of UF, I’m in charge, and if we fail the employees or members, I’ve failed each of you. I must lead and make it clear to each and every person what we are trying to accomplish. Decide what your standards are and then communicate them.

 

In my first month on the job, we came up with the standards that we expect here. This was the seven tenants that we should follow. I posted them and shared these widely. After they were shared, I failed in making sure that we lived these each and every day. Cody Miller reminded me of this a few weeks ago when he asked if I could repeat all seven and I couldn’t. This made me realize that I failed my own standard. 

 

During this unprecedented time, we all are at home. I ask you to set your standard and ask yourself what you can do to not only make yourself better but make our world a better place to be. With this in mind, let me shift gears and give you a few books that I recommend. I hope you take this time to learn and grow.

 

  1. Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori and Brafman: This book taught me about investing my time. Too often, we do something and it fails. Then we do it again without making the necessary changes. This book shows real life examples of how we must change our behavior in order to grow.
  2. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair: I strongly believe that reading fiction and non-fiction alike will help us understand culture and humanity. While this book is famous for changing how we look at the meat packing industry, it really is more about humanity.
  3. Under the Bar by Dave Tate: If you’re reading this, I assume you train. Follow what Dave has learned through his long lifting and coaching career. 
  4. Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink: I have a funny story about this book. Someone sent me this book and there was no return address. I put the book in my computer bag and planned to read it soon. I forgot about it until someone broke into my car and stole my computer bag. A few days later I was walking down the road and saw that my elderly neighbor had a bag that was in her yard (down a wall). I jumped down to grab her bag. When I grabbed it, I noticed that it was my bag and the books were still in it. This is the lesson of the book. Own your responsibilities. The person who broke into my car should probably read this book. 
  5. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan: Michael is one of the best authors of our time. He has written on a wide range of topics and always has an amazing way of tying his topic into how it affects society. 
  6. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond: Actually, just read anything that Jared Diamond has ever written. Much like Michal Pollan, Diamond’s books run the gamut of topics, and he ties everything into how it affects humanity.
  7. Into the Wild and Into Thin Air by John Krakauer: I’ve read every book that John Krakauer has written and I highly recommend that you find any of his books and enjoy his easy writing style and amazing stories of human survival.
  8. To the Last Breath by Francis Slakey: This book has haunted me for years. Francis Slakey has an amazing story about climbing the highest peak on each of the seven continents while also surfing every ocean. During his trips, he learns about humanity as well as his connection to the greater world. 

 

I’ve been lucky enough to meet and listen to many of these authors speak. I was on NPR with Michael Pollan and have shared emails with many of these other authors. I would to see what books you recommend, so please comment on our Instagram page with your thoughts.

 

Thanks and be safe.

 

 

Todd Hamer

Challenge your perspective.

These are very uncertain times that we are living in. With things changing day to day in the world, it’s hard to tell what tomorrow will bring. Unfortunately, there are many things that are out of our control right now. That’s just the reality of it. However, it’s important to stay focused on the things that we can control. Especially those things that are most important, but which we often easily overlook. During these times of change, it’s easy to force ourselves to keep moving just to stay busy, even if that means adding more stress. My advice, slow down and challenge your perspective.

 

 

A little over a week ago, I was admitted into the hospital for a few tests and precautionary measures. I ended up having a case of the flu, as well and pneumonia. It’s safe to say that this put me on my ass for a while. During that period of forced downtime, I began reflecting on different things. Things that I had never really thought about before, or at least for a very long time. Over the past week, I have reached out to friends and family to see how they were doing. One of the common responses I received was that they were worried about their training, or bummed that the gym was closed. Believe me, I completely understand. Especially when you’ve done something a certain way for so long and have established progress and a routine. Then all of a sudden it feels like it was taken from you. But guess what, it’s going to be okay! Maybe even a blessing in disguise.

 

 

I’ve been training in one capacity or another for 12 years straight. During that time, I have never gone a week without training, until now. While I was sick, I went 13 days without any sort of exercise. Yesterday was my first day back, and it felt like I had never exercised a day in my entire life. My routine was simple. I walked 2 miles, then did 2 sets of 10 tempo goblet squats with a 25lb bag of jasmine rice, 2 sets of 10 pull-ups from an I-beam in my basement, and 2 sets of 15 push-ups. I was absolutely gassed. The flu and pneumonia definitely took a toll on me. After I was finished, I sat down and reflected. I was not one bit depressed or upset with how much I had declined while not being able to train, or the fact that I did not train 2 weeks, for I understood that 2 weeks of not exercising is not going to erase what I have built in 12 years (remember that). In fact, it gave me time to focus on other things in my life. Things that maybe I’ve been over looking and taking for granted. That’s very easy to do if we let it happen.

 

 

The same holds true for all of you reading this. It makes me happy to see everyone continuing to find ways to workout and train during these times, but remember not to let it consume you. Don’t train because you feel like you HAVE to, or because you want people to know that you still are. If you chose to train, do it because you love it, and because it gives you joy. If you chose to take a break, that’s fine. Honestly, there’s no better time then now. If you’ve been exercising for any extended amount of time, there’s even a good chance that your body actually needs a break, and it will help your progress in the long run. Your strength wasn’t built in two weeks, and it certainly won’t leave you that quickly.

 

 

During this time of quarantine, the lack of worrying about my workouts has given me time to focus on my perspective. What is really important in my life, and what can I learn today? I challenge you to do the same. Slow down, and take some time out of your day to reflect on what is truly important in your life. I’ve talked to my parents every day since the start of this Pandemic. That’s something that I’ve now realized I don’t do enough of. I’ve gotten in touch with friends and family who I haven’t spoken to in quite some time. Yesterday I watched my Fiancé sew masks together to be donated to Hospitals in need. That inspired me more than I can explain, and even inspired me to learn how to sew. I saw a picture of a friend of mine on Instagram with his Guitar. Something that maybe he hasn’t taken the time to do in a while.

 

 

During these times of uncertainty, slow down, and take some time to challenge your perspective. Reach out to those who you care about, put your phone away and go for a walk, read a book, write something, and learn something new that you’ve always been curious about. Believe it or not, this will all be over before we know it. When that time comes, I hope we are all able to look ourselves in the mirror and know that we have become a better person because of it. 

Banana Bread: A Little Humbling + My 5 Commitments

Good morning Union Fam,

 

You’ll probably see a mix between fitness and life content from me going forward because we happen to be in such a weird time in our lives. I might tell you some stories, talk about horrible baking experiences, or maybe give you some ideas for workouts. Whatever it is, it’ll always be full-out transparency and honesty from my mouth.

 

 

It’s been a rough week to say the least (can I get an Amen?), and yesterday I was in such a funk that I did two things: I downloaded my graphic design programs again and baked banana bread, two things that I haven’t had the time to do because life gets in the way.

 

 

My days were always a little jam packed before this pandemic made us all slow down. There were a lot of things I just didn’t have time for anymore and some things took precedent over others. I’ve always been a very creative person. I have a minor in graphic design and I bake well. It’s just fun to make really tasty things. I’m trying to look at this trying time as positively as I can and bring things back into my life that I once loved.

 

 

Now, a quick break thanks to our sponsor of this post—banana bread.

 

 

I’m by no means a baker, so like any normal person, I googled a recipe and went to work. To be fair, I actually took it out 20 minutes too early and cut into it only to realize that I didn’t cook it long enough. So back in the oven it went.

 

 

Recipe:

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter

3 ripe bananas

2 eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1.2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 small handfuls of chocolate chips (optional)

 

 

I cooked the banana bread at 350 degrees, combined wet and dry ingredients separately, and then in one bowl, mixed it altogether with two small handfuls of chocolate chips.

 

 

Below are the ingredients that I had around the house:

 

 

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog post. Shout out to the banana bread.

 

 

I know I’m not the only one worried about working out, but in the grand scheme of things, this pandemic has humbled me into realizing what is most important in this life. I do, however, encourage you to move 30 minutes to an hour a day, and if you want to keep up your normally scheduled rest day, by all means, do so. The best thing we can do for ourselves is to stay on a structured routine, do things we enjoy, and be kind to ourselves and bodies.

 

 

I won’t sit here and write all about what I think you should do because that’s not why you read the things I write about to begin with. Instead, I’ll tell you about what I’m going to commit to. Here are five things I’m promising to myself:

  1. Move my body once a day, even on rest days.
  2. Eat as well as I can during this time and fuel properly (snack breaks approved).
  3. Get back into graphic design and bring back my entire creative vibe.
  4. Keep myself motivated by contributing quality content for my UF fam.
  5. Be kind to myself with whatever that entails.

 

Now, what are your five things? Post them on your IG story and tag us. We want to see them.

 

 

Lastly, before I end this post, this all goes without saying, but if anyone out there needs anything from me or any other Union Fitness staff member, please reach out. We are here for you every single day regardless of what is going on. We care about you and love you all.

 

 

The most humbling thing about all this is realizing that it’s the people in my life who mean more to me than the goals I was in the middle of chasing.

 

 

Much love,

J

Win Member of the Month

Hear Ye Hear Ye,

 

Good people of Union Fitness I bring you news that the work you put in this month could lead to great honor, in this dojo of wellness.

 

“But how Sir Bumps-a-lot, please tell us more?!” The people proclaimed!

 

This month you, the great people of Union Fitness have the opportunity to compete to win The Member of the Month, an accolade held in the highest of regards. Who doesn’t love a little friendly competition?!

 

We have assembled a 5 point list with how you can achieve your glory.

* Dominate 3 classes or 4 sign-ins a week.
* Bring a friend (Bonus points if they join).
* Hit a new personal record and show your favorite coach (aka The Bumpiest).
* Tag your Union Fitness training in your social media posts.
* Do something great for your community and share what you did with us through social media or in real life (community service, volunteer work, charitable donation, etc.).

 

Unlock all 5 accomplishments, score your points and make your own luck to win. The Member of the Month….Glory awaits.

 

Thank you all and let’s have some fun, this beat is sick!

 

Cheers, CeJ

HIIT Training or Cody’s Wild Ride?

If you didn’t catch my last blog post, Stew and I have been having some fun with safety squats on Saturday mornings. It feels like we’ve been running these sets of 10 for 3 months or so, but in actuality, it’s only been 5 weeks. I guess that’s what happens when you are in pain. Time moves slowly.

 

Two weeks ago (the week after my abysmal performance), Stew said he was going to deload that week and invited me to join him, to which I replied, “Cody doesn’t deload.” I have a strong aversion to deloads. It’s not that they don’t have merit, it’s more that I’m too stubborn and foolish to voluntarily take them. I usually just keep training hard until I’m so destroyed that I can’t move or I get injured. That’s when I take a deload. You know…like a smart person.

 

That Saturday, Stew did some easy sets of 10 with 335, and I chose to push the weight if it was there. I was fortunate enough to hit a top set of 395 for 10. I felt as though I had redeemed myself. I did some more sets of 10 with 345 and called it a day.

 

That set the stage nicely for last week. Stew was coming off his deload, and I was still under the childish delusion that I can keep getting stronger every week without end. Stew had a great performance with 405 for 10. I also had a good performance with 425 for 8 (I missed the 9th rep). After my top set, I dropped down and hit 365 for 3 sets of 10. All 30 reps felt like max effort, and like every Saturday, I walked out of the gym feeling broken.

 

After Stew’s top set, something interesting happened. He was feeling nauseous (Stew routinely dry heaves after hard sets of 10), and he wasn’t able to drop down and do work with the safety squat. After the frustration of not being able to perform wore off, Stew declared, “I’m going to do sets of 20 on the belt squat.” I replied, “Good. Go punish yourself.” He did.

 

On his last set of belt squat, he decided that 20 reps wasn’t enough for redemption. A set of 40 reps, however, might do the trick. I imagine they had similar thought processes in the Soviet gulags. As the amazing training partner that I am, I would hobble over in between my sets of squats to shower Stew with support, encouragement, and affirmation. This was communicated with loving phrases such as “make friends with the pain”, “it’s not that hard, just stand up”, and “no one at the gym will like you if you don’t get 40 reps.”

 

10 minutes later, when Stew was coherent and could form intelligible words again, we joked and laughed about how deranged we both were, and about how excited we were for next week.

 

This is how Stew and I have fun.

CJ’s plan for impacting all!

“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later! Opportunity favors the bold.”

― Richard Branson

 

 

At Union Fitness we have an amazing opportunity to impact the day and lives of our members every time they walk into our doors. At times, the answer is easy, just be a good person and give our members a great training experience. Other times, the answer lies beneath the surface of training, people want to be a part of something more, a sense of friendship and community. The opportunity I have here is to be a good human, training partner, coach and community member to continue to help build Union as not only a gym but a place of support, encouragement and comfort…a real judgment free zone (shots fired).

 

 

How do I do this…sometimes I don’t know, it takes time to build trust and relationships. Saying hello and introducing yourself makes a stranger, no longer a stranger. Being a good training partner comes with some responsibilities, holding each other accountable to show up, keeping each other motivated to stay the course outside the gym and someone that makes training fun. When it comes to coaching you have to meet people where they are at in their training/wellness journey. Giving a member too little or too much may make them unmotivated to return or discourage their progress. A good coach has to motivate but also be realistic at the same time with progress, always be supportive nonetheless. Finally to build our family and community atmosphere we have to support each other no matter the weight on the bar or distance of race. We can even show our love outside the gym by supporting our members local business, events, hobbies and our community as a whole. It’s always great to see a familiar smiling face at an outside event.

 

 

Some cool events support events coming to Union are:

Feb 25th – CEJ’s Birthday Powerful class with donations going to a local Animal Shelter

March 15th- All Out For Amelia with donations going to families & children impacted by cancer

 

 

If you have any cool events coming up or neat ideas, let us know! If you want to try and event, but aren’t sure, say yes and we can figure it out together.

 

 

Long story short, be good to yourself and others and live well.

Cheers,

CEJ

CJ’s long strange trip

Hello Union Fam,

I’m back and I sure did miss all your smiling bumpy faces while I was on vacation.

 

For the past week I was in Sunny San Diego, exploring and hanging out with Ron Burgundy, Skylyn, some seals and Skylyn’s Fit Ink team. I had never been to San Diego before or California until this trip and I must say San Diego is pretty rad. The weather was unreal, the sights were spectacular, the food was baller and the company of course was top notch.

 

Some people fear that taking a vacation will devastate their current training, I say Nay Nay! I will tell you firsthand that I came back from vacation feeling fresh and tossed some weights my first couple of trainings back on home soil. “CeJ, how did you do this?” Well my bumpiest of friends, let me tell you.

 

To stay on track with my training during vacation I made a training plan, reloaded, hydrated, ate well and had a freaking blast!

 

I had planned to take a reload on vacation as training shouldn’t be the center of a vacation and, I knew this would be a great time to try a different gym’s equipment and just ride the pump. I planned my split out ahead of time so I knew the focus of that day’s training. My split was: Upper Push, Upper Pull, Cardio Circuit with Abs, Lower Body, Upper Push and Upper Pull during my 6 day adventure. A reload is when the training volume and intensity is decreased, this gives the body and the central nervous system some time to recover from your wild training sessions. Do yourself a favor and take a reload on your vacation and try not to spend more than an hour at the gym or your place of training. Stay hydrated my friends! Traveling can dehydrate you and sometimes we just forget to drink with all the excitement of vacation. Carry a water bottle with you and drink it while you’re on the move. When it comes to eating, please try new local places and foods, spice up your taste buds. If you are worried about eating too much, then share some plates with your adventure partner(s) and don’t stress. The most important thing I have to say about staying on track during your vacation time is to live it the heck up and make all the memories you can! You can always make more money and gainzzz, you can’t always make more time. Thank you San Diego, it was a pleasure.

 

 

PS now that I’m back, come and train with me.

Stay Bumpy

-CeJ

Hips don’t lie!

During one of my first Swedish massage classes, our instructor asked how many of us had ever had a Massage Therapist work on our glutes.  If I remember correctly, I believe one out of 15 or so said yes. I was not that one person and despite knowing the importance of the muscles in this area, I had never even known it was an option.

 

During a separate class we spent the entire time learning how to massage the muscle group and getting over our fear of working on an area that society has made feel off-limits. I get it.  I get that it can be awkward, I get that it can cause someone anxiety, and at the least, it is out of the norm. However, if you feel comfortable with your Massage Therapist, it will be life changing!

 

 

Why? Consider the glutes to be your connecting force between your upper body and lower body.  The glutes alone consist of the gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in the body and primary hip extensor (think walking – as your foot hits the ground and moves you forward); the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, both hip abductors (think stepping to the side).  Deep to the glute max and med, you have 6 (SIX!) external hip rotators: piriformis, gemellus superior and inferior, obturator internus and externus, and quadratus femoris. Aside from those nine muscles, the hip bone is the attachment site for many other muscles including more hip extensors (hamstrings), hip flexors (quads), abdominal and lower back muscles.

 

Who would benefit? Everyone.  Literally everyone.

 

For us as lifters, we need all of these muscles! Each muscle has its primary action and when it cannot perform its intended job, the body finishes the task by compensating.  This becomes an issue when it is a continuous pattern and can lead to, at the least, an incorrect trained movement, and at the worst, an injury.

 

During long bouts of sitting, the hip flexors become tight and after an extended period the glutes decide to shut down and the lower back will take over.  If you have lower back pain, this is a likely cause.

 

Although a more serious case, piriformis syndrome is another possibility if the muscle remains tight for an extended period of time. This happens because the piriformis extends across the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve running from the lower back to the feet.  If the muscle becomes too tight it will begin to compress the nerve causing sciatic symptoms such as pain or numbness in the butt or even along the entire leg.

 

How is the area worked? This can depend on the Massage Therapist.  Personally I will work on the area while still covered. If it is a part of the massage, your legs will be covered with the top sheet and I will work through the draping.  If it is a session directly focused on that area, I may have you wear gym shorts and lay over top of the sheets.

 

Well, there you have it. If you already have this area worked on, kudos to you! Your body thanks you for it. If not, I hope this has reminded you of an often forgotten but very important area of your body. As Shakira has said, “Hips don’t lie” and she is not wrong!

Meaty Potato Tacos

Being of Irish descent I believe that potatoes could NAY should be used in all meals. With this said I tossed this meal together as I had the ingredients and felt like the right thing to do.

 

Ingredients

1 lbs of grass fed ground beef (local).

Taco seasoning.

8 small potatoes.

2 Tomatoes.

2 Avocados.

Hot Sauce.

 

Directions

Brown the ground beef, then add the taco seasoning and water.

Slice the potatoes and sauté in butter.

Make the cooked potatoes the base of your taco, add the meat on top.

Add sliced tomatoes, cheese, avocado and any other greens or topping that you desire. Hot sauce should be on everything so don’t forget your hot sauce.

 

Simple and delicious. On a side note as I typed this we debated, is this really a taco as it has no shell and I agreed with myself (and no one else) that it still is a taco. Hope you enjoy.

 

Why do we do this?

This Sunday about 40 people gathered here at Union Fitness to have a great training session as well as raise some money for our friend Harry Lorusso. It was early on a Sunday morning, and we trained for about an hour and fifteen minutes and from what I saw many were challenged and had a good time. In addition to this we raised almost 600 dollars for a good cause (more on that later).

I have been competing for nearly twenty years and have done many other physically challenging events in between my competitions. I often ask myself why do I do this and then I ask, why also do others do this? When I see a day like what I saw Sunday morning here at Union Fitness,  I am reminded that we only have one trip on this earth and part of this trip is about pushing ourselves.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Teddy Roosevelt

I believe this often referred to quote by Teddy Roosevelt best express why we do what we do. We know we are going to fail and that is OK we must keep pushing forward which takes me to my friend and our member Harry.

Harry was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer. He was a young man with his life in front of him. I have often thought how would I handle news such as this. Could I handle it? Would I break down? Am I tough enough? Even though I have only known Harry a few months he has shown that he is the epitome of toughness dealing with this disease. I found out about his issue when he posted on instagram that he was training on his final day of chemo. That made me think, this is why we do what we do. We do what we do because as Henry Rollins said,

“Through the years, I have combined meditation, action, and the Iron into a single strength. I believe that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts. Time spent away from the Iron makes my mind degenerate. I wallow in a thick depression. My body shuts down my mind.

The Iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body have been awakened to their true potential, it’s impossible to turn back.” Henry Rollins

So Harry reminded me that we have an opportunity and he also reminded me that we all only have a limited time on earth so let’s make the best of this opportunity. For this I thank you Harry and hope that each of us can be thankful each and every day that we get to walk into the gym and push ourselves to be better than we were yesterday.

Thank you everyone who came out and donated to help end cancer and make the world a better and stronger place.