Category Archives: Life Health

2021 Strength Project & Push/Pull

Spring is almost upon us and we missed one of our favorite programs of the year so far in 2021, The Strength Project. We are bringing it back in a different way this year. We are also excited to announce our charity push/pull in just a few short weeks. Details for each event are below.


Strength Project 2021


In the past we used this with our unlimited members. In 2021 we want to open it to everyone. The way to get involved is easy.

  1. Over March/April take 30 classes or get 35 workouts on your own or… use 15 personal training sessions. To track this just sign the sheets hanging outside of the cardio lab.
  2. If you complete this you will earn a free massage and a workout with any of our staff members.
  3. We will also select a grand-prize winner for both male and female. The winners will be voted on by the staff. The winners will recieve a free unlimited month at UF and 3 PT sessions.


Push Pull 2021


We have been waiting patiently to host another push pull and the time is now upon us. We will host the 2021 Push Pull on March 21st at 10 AM. Weigh Ins will be from 7:30-9AM. The lifting will occur in the performance lab and we will have the garage door open so spectators and judges can be outside to help with social distancing. If we get lucky and have warm weather we will hold the entire event outside on our turf.


This year we will be raising money for the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation. One of our goals is to be more involved in the neighbor and this is an organization that works directly in the Northside to help less fortunate youth. We will have more information about how to give in the near future.  Visit their site here.  


For those of you unfamiliar or concerned about competing in a push pull competition, don’t fret. It is just a chance to challenge yourself in the bench press as well as the deadlift. We will have judges, spotters, loaders as well as others there to help you. If you are a competitive lifter and want to jump in as a training day great, and if you are new come on and try this event out as well.


Following the event we will (as always) share some outdoor food and libations. So make it a fun day, do some good, and move some weights!


Thanks and BE STRONG






Shareholder Vs Stakeholder

Early in my career I would scoff at reading business books. It was a huge weakness of mine. I did not understand that most lessons come from outside of one’s industry. As I’ve aged and matured (albeit slowly), I learned the lessons that can be offered from other industries are many times more important than just listening to those within one’s own industry.


This week I was driving and listening to a podcast with Abigail Disney. Ms Disney is, as her name suggests, a member of the Disney family (you may have heard of them). Her goal is to make Disney a better place to work and visit. She was discussing Disney’s culture as well as who the stakeholders of Disney were Vs. the shareholders. This is a topic some of you may be familiar with. I want to use this blog to write about how this applies to training and a gym environment.



As people training in a gym I consider these people the ones who are focused mainly (not solely but, most of their focus) on external goals. As a lifter it could be numbers, or as one who wants to lose weight it could be the scale. The process is only as important as what outcome it gives someone in this setting. The world needs shareholders at time to be cold and make decisions based solely on outcome and no emotional connection to what’s going on.



For the people in the gym these are the ones who are there to enjoy the process and make the experience better for them all around. The stakeholder worries about the process, the outcome is important yet stakeholders live in the reality and know the outcome is not always a result of a good or bad process. There are many variables that can affect an outcome that the stakeholder can’t control.


We need both and we want to be stakeholders for you. Both of these groups are very important to our community. A good balance of both of these types of people can make everyone around us better. I do ask our staff when making decisions think like stakeholders. As a lifter spend most of your time thinking like a stakeholder. If you become to much of a shareholder then you will miss the beauty of having a great moment in the gym. Be involved in the process of helping improve yourself while you are here and also be in the process of others succeeding while you are here.


This idea reminds me of a quote, I have searched high and low and can’t find the author, “I want to come to the end of the day tired, defeated, victorious.” I remind myself of this quote daily. If I am being a true stakeholder for all of us and UF then I will be tired, beaten (due to winning some and losings some), as well as victorious for all that we have accomplished. If I (and we) do this everyday then the goals we all will reach will be well above what we could have done if all we worried about was the outcome.



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 Jessie Theisen.


Ladies & Gents, here is Jessie in her own words.


“I grew up in central California (where the cows overpopulate the people) in a small town called Visalia, however, I was born at Fort Bragg, NC (military brat- dad was 20 years 82nd Airborne and mom a marine). After spending the majority of my childhood in central CA, at 19 I picked up and moved to LA in 2008 where I lived there intermittently through 2016 (moved to PGH with my then boyfriend, now husband summer of 2016). Of my past lives, the most interesting is probably the opportunity I had as a professional makeup artist working in film, runway, magazines, commercials and doing everything from beauty makeup to special effects/gore (the latter was the most fun)! I was a professional makeup artist for the 8 year stint I was in LA.


For my current work, I am a team lead for a group of loan analysts at a financial tech company called LendingHome (they specialize in mortgages for people who fix and flip houses)- my team helps process that product, attempting to locate any process/design flaws and work with our engineering team to better perfect it. In short, it’s a fancy customer service job. I love the people I work with and can’t imagine being anywhere else anytime soon.


My training background really starts with Union Fitness. I was never the sporty or athletic type- I was a band nerd who could play Sweet Child O’ Mine on 5 different instruments while marching in a god-awful wool suit (feather and all). I would always strive to find ways to be active, though; I just never really landed on what worked for me. Took everything from cardio barre, to pilates, yoga, I just didn’t fit in any of those spaces. My drive and motivation quickly waned until I found UF, where they encouraged people of all athletic abilities to pick up a weight, and put it down, and pushed to do the same the following day/week, only heavier. THIS.WAS.MY. SHIT. Attending the #powerful classes on a regular was therapeutic for me. There were stents where I was going 5-6 days a week, sometimes two-a-days. It wasn’t even just the workouts anymore, it was the community of people who went to the same classes, continuing to build each other up and cheer each other on in their small(or big) victories. A place of misfits that I could call my own; UF is home to where I’ve made some of my closest friends. I’m grateful to the atmosphere it has cultivated and maintained from its origination until now.


The fun shit:

  1. If I could eat one food every day it’d be a cold-cut turkey sandwich (you’re free to DM me on particulars), I’m a fanatic and those close to me know it, there’s a certain consistency to the bread, color combo of the mayo and mustard together, a particular type of ground oregano- there’s an art to it, I promise; to which I must add, PITTSBURGH! Stop heating that shit up and putting fries on it…. STOP THAT SHIT! STOP IT RIGHT NOW!
  2. If I was a piece of equipment at Union, I’d probably be the EliteEFTS PRO, short monster mini band (yeah, the small green one) – functional, small, sturdy, pain in the ass.
  3. I’m competing in my first ever bodybuilding competition this May 8th. Signed up last March a week before Covid shut everything down- (original show meant to be last Oct). I have gone through 2 cuts now, and 2 refeeds. What was originally meant to be a 6 month prep will be 14 after all is said and done. I’m f’n jazzed to get on stage and have one of them cold-cuts mentioned under #1 right after!
  4. The most under-rated candy is Chewy Sprees.
  5. I have only ever owned pitbull dogs as pets; they’re the biggest derpsters and I love everything about them. I have a black and white named Trouble; I would die for her.
  6. Oh, fave exercise:  deadlifts.”


Thank you, Jessie for being a great member of our community!




The Value in Showing Up (Thank you Murat).

I began writing this after I had a talk with Curtis Miller about my training. Over the last year I like many others have had a hard time training. We all have struggles at times with our training, yet I can honestly say I’ve never lost the passion to train. Then last March when the lock down occurred I truly lost my passion to train. I also began to have trouble sleeping, this became a new problem for me. I would wake up for no reason at midnight. As I have preached for years, too many stressors and too many changes at once can mess you up. That is where this blog began…Until yesterday afternoon.


Monday’s I work early and yesterday I finished up at the gym in time to get some sled riding with Tenzing. Before we began I saw a picture of a good friend of mine with RIP listed over his picture. As soon as I saw this I called the person who posted this. It was true, my friend had died in a car accident. I realize that this topic is pretty heavy for our normal blog posts. Yet, it is important for me to write this and I hope it helps any and all of you who ever struggle.


Before becoming the GM at Union Fitness I was the director of strength and conditioning at The George Washington University (GW). To be completely honest I had no desire to return to living in DC when I had accepted the position. I had lost my previous job after almost 12 years of service and winning many awards, yet was still let go with zero assistance from my previous employer. So in order to make money we decided it was best for me to take this job. My wife has a good job here and my son is in a top local school district, so I would travel to DC on Sunday night and come back to my house as soon as I could on Friday. We would consider moving to DC if the job I had accepted was moving in the direction I thought it would. Clearly this was a trying time for me and my family. During this time I met some great friends in DC and many helped me as they knew how unusual my situation had become.


One day at work I asked Chris Monroe (fellow GW employee and back in his playing days 2000+ point basketball player at GW) for a recommendation to grab a beer and dinner. Chris took me to Homeslyce and introduced me to the guy who ran it (Murat). For the next year I would have dinner at Homeslyce 3x a week. Murat kept me sane during my time in DC. I would get to work between 5-6AM, work, train and do all the fun work stuff then try to make it to Homeslyce by 6 PM for dinner and sometimes a libation. The food was great but the company was what made Homeslyce a home for me.


During my last week at GW Murat threw a party in my honor at Homeslyce. He had a custom cake, food for everyone and drinks flowed like… well drinks. The dude truly cared. Since I  left DC I have kept in contact with Murat. Murat was sending food to the hospital and feeding the troops during the past month. He was a guy trying to help out and for that I respect the hell out of him.


The biggest thing Murat did for me is show up. This took me back to where I am now in my life. Lifting hasn’t been perfect but each day we get the opportunity to show up. So to quote Jason Isbell.


“Last year was a son of a bitch
For nearly everyone we know
But I ain’t fighting with you down in the ditch
I’ll meet you up here on the road.”


What I asks of each and every one of you is to show up for yourself, for your family and for your friends. Just showing up at times will be all we need and all we can do. I can promise you I will continue to show up for you and hopefully I can help one of you in the time when you need someone to lean on. None of us are self made and we can all support one another if we are willing to help out. If I ever feel down or not ready to show up I will remember how Murat showing up for me was all I ever needed and he did that, so I’ll show up for you.


Todd Hamer

Curt’s Corner

As many of you are aware, we recently brought two interns on board to work with us here at Union Fitness for their final semester of College. As much as I enjoy giving them a hard time and testing their knowledge, they are both great and are willing to learn anything and everything they can.


Last week, I decided to quiz them and asked if they knew why the steel plates were flat on one side and grooved on the other. Naturally, they weren’t sure. Although the answer is very simple and something that everyone should know, it’s understandable why someone might not.


This got me thinking about some potential other areas regarding the weight room that may be overlooked, misunderstood, or even under appreciated.


  1. Putting plates on the correct way: The answer to this is simply so you can grab and load/unload the weights easier. This isn’t just for your own safety, but also those other members who need to use the weights after you. So be sure to put the weights on the bar facing inward, and put them back on the rack the same way.
  2. Proper warm-up: Your warm ups should always be done with purpose and intent. Do not take them for granted. The way you perform your warm-up will directly dictate how well you are able to perform your training session, along with the overall success of your session. If you are just putting a band around your knees and walking around for 1-2 minutes, I can assure you that you are not doing enough to prepare yourself for your training session. Select exercises that are directly related to the goal of your session and perform them with intent.
  3. Performing the full range of motion with your exercises: In the words of Thee Dave Jackson, “if the weight is dictating your ROM, then it’s too much weight”. Unless you are performing an exercise designed to be used with a shorter range of motion such as a floor press, or have a specific injury that you are working around, you should always be moving the weight throughout the entire range. Doing so will keep you safe, healthy, and strong.   
  4. Being aware of those around you: Little known fact, you are actually not the only person who is attempting to perform a workout in the gym. Be aware of how long you are on a piece of equipment in case someone else needs to use it as well. When you are walking around or carrying equipment, respect the space of those around you, especially if they are in the middle of performing a movement. The gym is one of the only places where we can all go to escape the challenges of everyday life. So respect everyone and share like your momma taught you.
  5. Ask for a spot: Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t make you less cool if you ask another member or employee to spot you during your lift. In doing this, you may actually get some helpful tips or pointers that you were not aware of previously. On top of that, it will keep you safe and accident free so you can lift for years to come.

Words From Anthony

As I wrap up my 5th week here at Union Fitness as an intern it seems like a great time to reflect on everything, I have learned so far. I’ll start off by giving you all some insight on what I’ve been doing since I started here: Cody set up a very in-depth curriculum for myself and Wyatt so that we can not only learn from all the trainers here, but also take a deeper dive into some of the training literature that is out there. 


The first couple of weeks we learned about different styles of programming; Periodization (linear, undulating, and block) and also Emergent programming. Being a powerlifter, this was probably my favorite thing we have done so far up to this point. During the week talking about this I got lots of insight from Cody and Curtis specifically and one thing that stuck with me that Curtis and I talked about was that as a coach, you need to really learn your own philosophy when it comes to coaching and have reasonings behind what you do. Every coach is different, but to be an effective coach you really need to learn what it is you believe in, and how to put those things into practice. This past week we started covering the Big Three (squat, bench, and deadlift) and got into some of the mechanics behind them as well as the variations used to help each of them. Other than the curriculum Cody wrote for us, I have also been floating around in some of the Powerful classes as well as the training sessions we hold here for some of the local college sports teams. It’s been a great opportunity to see the difference in how all of the trainers here communicate differently with those they are training as well as getting some insight as to why certain things are programmed for the athletes and how to progress them in those movements. 


I really lucked out landing this internship because I honestly don’t think I could intern at any other gym that would have as wide of a knowledge base as Union. It’s been great working with some of you during Powerful classes and I hope to continue to work with more of you and keep picking the brains of everyone here at Union. 

I Love Eggs and You Should Too

Hang around lifters, (the humans not the bad nickname for your shoes) long enough and the topic of protein will come up. The rule of thumb that most of you have probably already heard is eat one gram of protein for every pound of bodyweight. For me I float around 200 lbs so around 200 grams of protein a day is a good goal. There is some debate about this number yet we can use it as a starting point. From there the quality of protein matters. If you do not understand amino acids that’s OK here is how you can think of it. For this blog we are going to just use numbers to represent different amino acids(AA). Let’s say AA your body can produce AA’s 1-5 but not 6-10. AA’s 6-10 must one supplied through diet. That is what makes a protein a “complete protein.”


Your goal for protein intake can include some non complete protein, yet getting complete proteins is very important for recovery. Another rule of thumb (no this is not a fact yet a decent rule of thumb) is animal proteins are generally complete. This is why being a vegetarian is so hard. Often times you will have to supplement with AA’s that you miss in your diet.


Onto the egg. Here are some fun facts about eggs.


  1. Eggs are a complete protein
  2. The yolk has as much protein as the white.
  3. They are one of the few foods high in Vitamin D.
  4. The are delicious and easy to prepare.
  5. This is the big one. The egg has a cheat sheet inside of it to tell you how awesome it really is. That cheat sheet is the yoke. A yellow yoke=BAD egg. A dark gold or almost brown yoke=Gainz. Without delving into hens diets too much a darker yolk means that the animal had a healthier diet and more than likely a better life. Run an experiment for yourself. Go to a local grocery store by the cheapest eggs you can look at the the yolk, cook it and taste it. Now go to a farmers market or east end food co-op, do the same thing. See and taste the difference for yourself.


Clearly point #5 was the one I really wanted to write about. The yolk tells you most of what you need to know. Now I am aware that people will say “Hamer, those eggs are expensive.” I do understand yet let’s look at the bigger picture. If you are willing to spend 4-6 dollars on your fancy coffee yet not 4-6 dollars on your eggs then you made your decision as to what’s important. I love the fancy coffee too and I also know the fancy eggs are more important. So skip the mocha, soy, chai, skinny, latte, with the sugar free, sugar infused vanilla and a pump of hazelnut and buy some real eggs.


Eat real food.




Curtis Challenges YOU!

Back by popular demand are our monthly challenges for all members and staff here at Union Fitness. For the month of February, there will be 3 different challenges to choose from. You can pick one of them, or you can do all of them and see how well you progress throughout the month. Just as we did in the month of December, we will place the scoring sheets on the glass outside of the cardio lab. These challenges can be done either here at Union Fitness or in the privacy of your own home if you aren’t able to make it in. Just be sure to tag us on instagram so we can record your score for you. The winner of each challenge will receive a free massage. For those of you who are not ready to come back to the gym we can save your massage for a later date. 


Here are the challenges.


Challenge 1: Sand bag/Dball bear hug for time.


For this challenge, the goal is to bear hug a 200 pound sand bag or an 80 pound Dball for as long as possible without putting it down. You can stand in one place, walk around with it, or jump up and down if you want (although we don’t advise that). Just as long as you don’t put it down. Record your time and try to beat it throughout the month.


Challenge 2: Push-Ups.


Similar to our pull-up challenge from December, the goal here is to accumulate as many push-ups as possible over the course of the month. These can be done anytime and anywhere. Just record how many you have done. The only rule is that your arms have to reach a 90 degree angle on each rep. 


Challenge 3: Total calories burned.


This can be done on either the rower, ski erg, the assault bike, or a combination of all three. Record your total calories for each workout and add them up at the end of the month to see how you did.


As with each of these, we will select the male and female winners for each challenge. You’ve already started the year off strong. Now let’s keep it rolling and crush some new goals and personal records. Stay strong, friends!

Member Spotlight; Wardy

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


This week we’d like to shout out Ward Stanford.


Ladies & Gents, here is the what is about, Wardy in his own words.


“I grew up in northeastern PA near Binghamton, NY. I’m not a native Yinzer but I moved here after living in a few different cities in PA, NY, and NJ to settle. I’m a Talent Manager for a Water Engineering company so I’m basically in charge of hiring people and keeping them happy. I’ve been doing Human Resources for my whole career. I’ve been training pretty seriously for about 6 years, I started doing some resistance training as part of a weightloss journey. I was obese from childhood through my later 20’s and decided after being over 400 pounds that I needed to change my life. I fell in love with the strength training side of exercise because it was truly a way to build myself and add something to my life that made me feel more confident. I still train that way to this day, focusing on just being muscular, strong and healthy for myself, I don’t compete in anything, I just train for me. I chose Union Fitness because it seemed like the best environment for me to do that. The variety of equipment and implements and supportive atmosphere made it easy for me to feel like I had a safe place to train anyway I wanted to and explore areas of fitness that you can’t really do in a gym with more specialization.  I love deadlifting and doing weighted carries for examples and finding a gym where I can do both of those things, inside or outside, and also use a treadmill and a preacher curl machine is extremely rare.”


A little more about Ward:


  1.  If Ward could lift with any President it would be Teddy Roosevelt. Our lift would be bully.
  2. Favorite PR song is Slaves and Bulldozers by Soundgarden. If you time the lift during the high note an angel lifts the bar for you.
  3. I have an entire Wall in my home dedicated to David Bowie.
  4. Shorts can never be short enough for me.
  5. Ward loves spicy food and will always try the ridiculous hot thing on a menu that will inevitably make him cry.
  6. Ward is a believer in the importance of a bigger picture of health so he advocates for therapy, meditation, stress management, philosophy, and mindfulness to support all of the physical and nutritional things we do for ourselves.
  7. If Ward was a character on a tv show he would be some combination of Patrick from Schitt’s Creek and Terry from Brooklyn 99.
  8. Ward is a much nicer in person than he looks, He is much friendlier than his face would seem
  9. Thank you Ward for being a great member of our gym community!




Let’s Talk Mental Health

Recently we at UF found out that one of our instructor’s family members took his own life. This has shaken each and everyone one of us at the gym and we are more determined now to be a part of the solution.


Starting now all of our fundraising efforts for the next three months will go towards mental health and suicide prevention. On top of raising money for this cause we are now beginning a mental health speaker series. We are very lucky to be able to partner with one local and one nationally renowned university from another state. With these partnerships we are adding free educational lectures on mental health with some of the top professionals. These lectures will also be offered free online to anyone.


Our goal is to help everyone lead a better life and if we only focus on the physical side of health then we are doing everyone a disservice. So please feel free to join us as we will be announcing lectures within the next two weeks.


Finally, if you are willing to donate we have details to help the family who lost their loved one. Click here for the link. 


With that I wish you good health, physical and mental and remember you are not alone.


Todd Hamer