Category Archives: Life Health

Current You Vs Future You

One of my all time favorite podcasts is, Hidden Brain Podcast(HB). HB’s host is Shankar Vedentam. Shankar has a degree in electrical engineering and a masters in journalism from Stanford. He has also written books, plays, as well as numerous articles. You may ask, but what does this have to do with health and fitness? Great question.

 

Big Data.

 

One area Shankar has done a ton of research into (and has discussed on this podcast) is big data. What he found is if one can grab a ton of aggregate data and break it down we can find many issues in society. Everything from what we google to how we spend our time. What I see here is input vs. output. Shankar looks at what we input daily. This could be in our minds or our bodies. This will lead you to become future you.

 

Input, Current You to Future You.

 

Last week on HB Shankar discussed the battle between current you and future you. A great example is a bowl of ice cream. Current you wants it, future you won’t get it but will deal with your decision. Future you won’t taste the ice cream but will store the extra calories and have a little less money because of the decision you made in that moment. Now that’s consider this on a more positive note. We all want to be stronger and fitter. So current you must create a stressor great enough that an adaptation will occur that will only be noticed to future you.

 

What input are you going to use with your body today? What training, diet, and educational input will lead to a better future you? The beauty in all of this is we do not know with 100% accuracy how this will all work out. Current you could do everything correct and future you may suffer due to issues outside of your control. This is why we can only concentrate on the input not the output. We everyday are gambling with our training, education, and life. So take the safe bet for future you, train hard, eat better, and read more. And when the day is over show gratitude to those who supported future you and your process.

 

Injury: The Mental and Physical Approach to Overcoming.

It’s no secret that if you’ve been involved with sports or serious training long enough, then you’ve probably experienced injury. From minor muscle strains, to major reconstructive surgery, and everything in between, injuries can often turn into a setback. Although, they can also become a tremendous learning opportunity when approached correctly. 

 

With each injury I have experienced, I’ve always tried to take the knowledge that I’ve obtained throughout the process and apply it to my clients, athletes, and my future self. You can’t aways prevent other’s or yourself from experiencing injury, but you can always have control on your outlook throughout the process, and how you overcome that obstacle. At the time, it’s not always easy to see it that way, but as time goes on, we often realize that maybe it was all a blessing in disguise.

 

Because this process can be extremely challenging, both mentally and physically, it is imperative that a plan is established before taking the steps to recovery. Whether it be with ourselves, our athletes, or our clients, the approach itself is very similar, and there are certain steps that need to be taken in order to return them to sport or daily activity. As a professional, it is my obligation and duty to make sure that I help each individual return to their activity as soon and as healthy as possible, while also helping them through those mentally challenging times that they will experience along the way. When helping ourselves, this process is no different.

 

To approach this, let’s use a 5 rule system.

 

1: Surround yourself with quality individuals: We spend our lives building connections and developing relationships. Now we must use those resources and connections that we have built over the years in order to help ourselves. Never be too prideful to ask for help. The best things we can do in this situation is take a step back, humble ourselves, and look for help. If you have to travel or search far and wide for that help, do it. It will certainly be worth it.

 

2: Take time off if needed: For most of us, we are instilled with this mindset that we must never stop; that if want want to achieve our goals we must keep going. But sometimes when we are constantly going, and our minds are full of things coming from many directions, we become paralyzed and unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s okay to take a few weeks off. Sit down and reflect on your life and your current situation. Give focus and gratitude to those things that maybe you’ve been neglecting. You will be surprised how much it helps you once you begin the road to recovery.

 

3: Establish challenges & set yourself up for wins: Once we know what needs to be done, we now must set daily, weekly, and monthly goals in order to stay on track. Once that is established, an action plan is put into place. We know our goals, now let’s ask ourselves what needs to be accomplished each day in order to get there. This can be extremely overwhelming at times, so it’s important to set yourself up with small challenges inside and outside of the gym that are very achievable. With each challenge completed, that is a small win. Continuous small wins add up into major victories over time.

 

4: Work on your weaknesses: Every injury that I’ve ever had has given me an opportunity to work on something else that I was neglecting. Whether this was physical or psychological, the injury is often a blessing in disguise and an opportunity staring you directly in your face. Most injuries are usually caused by an imbalance or a neglect of another area of our body. While you’re recovering, take the time to to focus on those other things such as stretching and mobility, overall conditioning, nutrition, stress management, etc. If we don’t take the time to find the cause and approach it, then there’s always a chance it may happen again.

 

5: Get it off your mind: Unless we are working on our physical therapy or any of the things listed above, get the injury off of your mind and out of your head. One of the worst things we can do is become consumed with something when we have no reason to be thinking about it. If you are performing rehab work, talking with a professional, or putting a plan of action together, then be 100% in that moment. When you aren’t, let it leave your mind and focus on those things right in front of you.

Break Your Rules

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

What is STRONG?

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

 

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

 

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

 

Stay the course, own your strength and keep working!

 

Hamer

July Events

My friends,

 

July is almost here and you’re gonna want to bust out your calendars for this month! We are pumped to bring you a packed schedule of events, from bootcamps to outdoor yoga, comedy shows and more. Below is a quick blast schedule of fun. Break out your markers!

 

Friday July 9th at 6PM

 

Bootcamp, yoga, and comedy show fundraiser benefiting OUT Athletics. All are welcome, not just Union members! Pride attire encouraged! OUT Athletics is a non-profit working to remove the barriers that block LGBTQ+ individuals access and participation in fitness, health and wellness. Register on the OUT Athletics website or scan the QR code on the flyer in the gym.

 

Sunday July 11th at 11am

 

We will be highly caffeinated and ready to kick start our Sunday Funday at Commonplace Coffee in the Mexican War Streets for a FREE bootcamp. We are asking for donations to the Central Northside Clinic. After the bootcamp, your first drink is on Union. Cheers.

 

Saturday July 17th at 10am 

 

We are coming back for our second bootcamp at Threadbare Cider House in Spring Garden. We are turning this one up to 11 with more adventures, challenges and games. This is a ticketed event that can be purchased on Threadbare’s website and will include the bootcamp, a first libation and 9.99% charitable donation to Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

 

Sunday July 18th at 12pm 

 

Outside on the Union lawn we will be hosting a FREE Yoga & Beer class. Come 1 come all and let’s get our Zen on.

 

Sunday July 25th at 10am

 

Wigle Whiskey’s revenge with our 2nd bootcamp at the Strip district location. Sign up on Wigle’s website to grab your ticket that includes the bootcamp, first libation and donation to our little friend Danny (who is raising money for a kidney transplant).

 

Also remember to go to Pgh City Paper and nominate UF for the best gym in town. You can vote every day till July 9th.

 

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

 

Cheers,

 

CeJ

Time=Love

In my last post I wrote about lessons I learned from others. Today I want to spread some Aloha from St Simons Island GA. Yes, I am aware that St Simons is not any where near Hawaii, yet we can spread Aloha anywhere.

 

My good friend Hank McDonald was a strength coach at University of Hawaii and he brought me out to speak a few years back. I owe Hank and Tommy a huge thank you for that trip. To put it in perspective the other speakers came from The Ohio St University, Auburn, San Francisco Giants, former NFL strength coaches and some top private trainers. Then there was me, from the athletic giant Robert Morris University. I was lucky enough to learn about  Hawaiian culture from Keanue Reeves cousin (he is a professor at UH). Morale to the story, I was outclassed in every way possible and I learned that Aloha means many things including good vibes.

 

In my last job I worked with two men’s basketball coaches. The first guy was a good guy and I am still a fan. He was put in a position that he could not succeed, and he was let go not long after I arrived. The second coach Jamion came in and did his best to bring some good vibes to the team. He spread the aloha during my time there, and there was one thing he said (which I had heard before, yet stuck with me this time), Time=LOVE. Whatever you spend your time doing you love. I was also able to meet a man that became a good friend Greg Graber, Greg wrote the book, “Slow Your Roll.” We hit it off because he spoke a lot about meditating, and controlling the controllable. Greg reminded me to slow my roll and stop fighting loosing battles.

 

Time=Love is a simple idea. If you commit time to anything then you must love it. So why I a taking time from my vacation to write this? I am doing this because I do love spreading aloha.  I will probably not touch a barbell this week and doubt I’ll train, I also probably won’t answer your email :-). So take some time today to decide what you love, and give it your time.

Maggies Why?

When coming to Pitt, I never thought about any other field except medicine. I spent most of my life fantasizing the idea of being a doctor because I convinced myself that was the only way I would be successful. However, I did not take the time out to learn what success meant to me. I could be successful at anything because I am a firm believer that what you put in is what you will get out of most situations. I just needed to figure out what I wanted to be successful in because clearly medicine was not it. *flashback to me crying in my large dunkin’ iced coffee in the middle of the library at 3am.

 

Once starting classes in the fall of my freshman year at Pitt, I quickly realized that my plan was not going to work out as anticipated. I wanted to choose a career that was going to lift me up rather than keep me in the ditch that I constantly found myself in. I was completely lost. I took classes that did not interest me, let my fitness deteriorate and my mental health took a toll. The perfect trifecta. That all changed once I took my first Intro to Exercise Science class. After entering that class, I was finally learning about something that piqued my interest and was able to prevent the diseases that I convinced myself I wanted to cure as a doctor. Wouldn’t it be a little less morbid if I dedicated my career to stopping them from happening in the first place rather than banking on these diseases to strike?

 

I had the opportunity to make connections and learn so much more about the field that I ever imagined. Having people around me who were willing to help me navigate my strengths and weaknesses was the key to knowing more about who I am and what I am capable of. I went into this major as someone who was far from who I am now. By far from who I am now I mean strides behind who I am now. In all honesty, I have only cried into my large dunkin’ iced coffee once this week so far. If that isn’t progress I don’t know what is. I was someone who was confident in nothing that she did, and believed that she would fail if she even tried. I came out of that major as a young woman who is confident that she can accomplish anything that she sets her mind to, with some hard work and elbow grease. I have so much to learn from those around me and I am so grateful for the opportunities that I have been extended to set me up to achieve my version of success. My time here at UF thus far has proven that to be true. 

 

I declared as a Health and Human Development major with a concentration in Exercise Science and have never even had a doubt that this was the right move. I fell in love with the science behind movement and how our bodies respond to exercise. I loved figuring out the “why” behind what we do as humans. Learning that everything is connected and how we treat our bodies in reference to exercise and movement effects every other part of us has become my why.

 

The main takeaway from my time in learning Exercise Science is simple: Exercise is Medicine. I carry that ideal with me every single day because living an active lifestyle can help solve many other health related issues whether that is mental, physical or otherwise. I am not saying that you need to train like an elite athlete to be healthy. That most certainly is not the case if any of you have seen me in the gym. I am simply stating that you must treat your bodies with the respect that they deserve. It is the only body you get and if you take care of it, it will then take care of you. Make exercise your medicine because it sure as hell has become mine as I have progressed from who I was into who I am and who I wish to be. 

Member Spotlight

Here at UF we love our members so much it’s time we show you off and have CJ climb the incline like King Kong, he will shout your presence from atop of the highest point of Mt. Washington!

 

This week we’d like to shout out Hannah Miers.

 

Ladies & Gents, here is Hannah in her own words!

 

“I grew up in Elkhart, IN. I went to college at Indiana university then moved to Pittsburgh right after graduation. My Bachelors degree is in event management but had a career change right before the pandemic and am now an esthetician. My Fav lift is probably squats. The  reason I train is to feel strong/healthy physically and mentally. My favorite thing about Union is the coaches and the fun classes, plus I’ve learned so so much about lifting since I started coming to class.

 

If I had to pick a Celeb workout crew, it would be J.Lo for sure, Jen Aniston , and Kim K.

 

My favorite food, well I could prob eat Mexican food everyday and Margs of course. -Han”

If you see Hannah around the gym, please say hi!

More Lessons Learned

I wrote a monthly column on elitefts for almost a decade. I am proud of much of my writing there, and I once penned an article entitled Lessons Learned. The point of this article was that none of us are self made and we all learn from one another. We must understand that none of us solely control our own futures. We must rely and lean on one another. This leads us to where we are today. What lessons have I taken away during my time as GM at UF? How are those lessons helping me to better serve each of you?

 

  1. I am not strong. One of the biggest pluses and minuses of working at UF is seeing so many strong people everyday. It reminds me that we all must work harder and it takes a whole team to make one stronger.
  2. Diversity makes me/us stronger. UF is one of the most diverse populations of humans in the city and I love it. On any given day we see powerlifters, business professionals, runners, cyclists, a few random cross fitters and even a bodybuilder or two every so often. I haven’t even mentioned the age, sex, sexual preference, race, and religion differences that makes all of us better.
  3. Everything works as long as you work hard. I have seen many people have great success here at UF. Some have lost weight, increased their strength, increased mobility, and just generally move better. The amazing part of seeing all of this is that I’ve seen numerous of ways to achieve these goals. I don’t care what your goals are I just care that you reach them. I learned that you can reach them in many different ways.
  4. Consistency is all that matters. I love watching Jared Caroff lift. Not only does he pull 600+ at 148 lbs, but he is also very consistent in his training. I recently spoke to him about his training and there is very little fancy yet he just shows up everyday and does the work. So I ask you to show up tomorrow and do the work to reach your goals.
  5. Final lesson for today is to enjoy the gym. I was meeting with a new member last night and we were intreruppted a few times by members saying hello. She mentioned how much she liked the positive vibe of the gym; a community of different people coming together as a family. I was reminded that we all feed off of one another and when one of us brings positive energy it is a gift that we all can feed off of and pass it on.

 

I hope some of this got you thinking and I thank each of you for what you bring to our little world. It is appreciated by more people than you could imagine.

 

 

 

The Importance of a Good Coach

Well, I kept my promise from my very first blog (I know so many of you were knocking down my door to hear this one).  I am going to talk about why I stopped playing the game I love. As I have stated before I had the best basketball coach in the world growing up. However, he was not my only coach. I also had the worst coach in the world. What a nice balance I have had in my life. Going into high school I was more prepared than ever to go into try-outs and make varsity as a freshman. Me, along with two other freshmen, made it.  To this day, I wish I had not. 

 

I am happy to have the experience to speak upon now, but I can honestly tell you that it was a horrible experience at the time. I like to think I am a pretty positive person. I know many of you see this ray of sunshine and think, “How could this burst of cotton candy and rainbows ever be sad?” *cue rolling eyes*. But, yes, I was downright miserable. Let me elaborate on why that was. 

 

Freshman year I did not expect to play in any games. I knew I had to pay my dues and hopefully get a chance to show what I had. I had to earn her trust. This coach did everything in her power to make sure that I regressed as a player and she sure as hell succeeded. I went to her on multiple occasions asking what I could improve on because at the time I valued her opinion. She kept coming up with stuff that I could do better. I fixed the problem and once I did she would come up with something else. I get it, I had a lot to work on. But, when someone is just constantly telling you that you are not good enough to even get a chance, it takes a toll on your mental image of yourself. Especially someone who is “supposed” to do the opposite; someone who is supposed to be your “coach”. 

 

Sophomore year, I got to a point where I had proven myself in a game situation, so much so that the parents and spectators came up to me after the game and congratulated me on how well I did in the short time that I played. She even gave me a shoutout in the locker room herself. I finally thought this was my chance, that I earned her trust in me as a player. The next game came around and I sat in the same seat for 4 quarters only standing to cheer for my teammates. I had just done so well in the previous game, why did she not take another chance on me to prove myself further? It made absolutely no sense. 

 

Again, I approached her after practice one day and asked what I could do to be better. I thought I was doing a great job, but of course, she had something to say. “Your body language is just horrible and you need to work on that”. You must be freaking kidding me. My body language? Really? Sorry, my bad, let me sit up a little straighter and stick a corny smile on my face real quick while you continue to rip me apart in practice and sit me for 3 games at a time while I work my butt off for you. Then will you let me do my job as the big bad post player you brought me on the team to be? 

 

I was so frustrated because I knew that she was treating me like this simply because of our lack of connection as coach and player. She did not respect me as a player and it showed in the way she addressed me during practice. She praised one of the other freshmen because of the publicity she brought to our team through our local news. They happened to catch a game where she threw up a sloppy shot and it happened to go in.  From then on she was our pig and we had to feed her the ball despite her track record of being a lazy player aside from throwing up outside shots. This coach only cared about how she looked to the public and was shoddy at best. She was political in the way that she let parents suck her into letting their kids play over the rest of us. It was abundantly clear that she didn’t like me for one simple fact; I wouldn’t let her bully me. I would not suck up to her and I would not BS her. I honestly got to the point where I did not respect her because she did not coach for her love of the game or her love for us. She coached because she loved having people who she didn’t even know admire her. 

 

Halfway through my sophomore year season we had already had two players quit because of her incompetence as a coach. I threatened to leave because she stole my love for the game. I would spend hours crying after games and practices and for what? It was not serving my life in the way that it once was and it killed me to come to that conclusion. I finished out the rest of the season because I had thought it was the right thing to do. The day after our season ended I called my coach. I told her that my success as a person was not determined by her and that she had ruined the game for so many people. She should be ashamed for taking away so many players identities and I went on for about 5 minutes telling her that. I might have gone a little overboard, but I was fuming. 

 

I told myself I would not let her ruin the game I loved so much. I became a coach for a youth girls basketball team through my local church and shared my years of knowledge with them. I loved teaching these girls and seeing them succeed through the sport. I saw the passion in their eyes and it brought back the love in mine. I look back at this experience with pride that I had the strength to walk away from something that once brought me joy, but didn’t anymore. I knew that my happiness was so much more important than what this horrible woman thought of me as a person and a player. I refused to let what anther person thought of me determine what I thought of myself.  I wanted to be a better coach to young girls than she ever was to me. Never let anyone steal your shine, most of the time they are doing it because of the dullness in their hearts. Be better than that, you never know whose life you might change in the process of standing up for your own light. 

 

Happy training, 

 

Mags