Category Archives: State of the Union

Thank You

One of our members recently said to me, “Pittsburgh does not have a good gym culture.” As a guy who runs a gym this made me sad, yet as one who has lived in 7 different cities I can’t say I disagree. I do believe that we here at UF are trying and working to change that fact, and make Pittsburgh a good gym town.


How are we making this town a better gym town?


First and foremost we are serving our members to the best of our ability. Whether you use one of our personal trainers (they are great), take our classes, or use the fitness center we want to be the best gym culture in town, and make you and our town stronger and better.


Additionally, we work with many different groups in town to make our city a stronger and more welcoming place. We have worked with the Urban League of Greater Pgh, local food banks, Hillman, Wounded Warrior, Pittsburgh Parks, as well as doing our weekly street cleaning in the Northside.


I do want put a focus on a group that many of you helped us raise money for recently. A portion of the entry fee at the Iron City Open went to a donation for Veterans Place.  


Veterans Place is a local organization that works with veterans by offering housing, education, job placement, a food bank and many other services. Please consider donating or offering to help this great organization out. We were happy to be able to donate 500 dollars to this organization yesterday. This small act is one step in creating a better “gym culture” thank you for being a part of this.



Introduction; Miranda

What’s going on Union,


You may have seen me around these past couple weeks, I have shadowed a couple cardio labs and #powerful classes during my first week. Although you might have only seen me a handful of times, yinz will start seeing me more often! I am a new personal trainer and a new front desk person. 


I grew up within a very small town called Leechburg, Pennsylvania. Throughout my childhood I competed in four sports from the age of three to eighteen. I started off with gymnastics and continued with it until I graduated high school. However, once I reached middle school I started cheerleading and volleyball, but since my school was so small, track and field had not been added until my junior year, but only as a club. The positions I played in these sports are: mascot/cheerleader, multiple positions in volleyball from libero to right side hitter, and in track and field I was a pole vaulter. I also competed for my school as an individual in WPIAL gymnastics, where I have won four WPIAL medals for Leechburg. Outside of high school gymnastics, I competed in competitive gymnastics and was state vault champion in 2015. After I graduated I continued my collegiate career with track and field and was a pole vaulter for Chatham University. In my last year, I almost was indoor PAC champion in pole vault, coming in second place. As you can see sports have had a large impact on my life and have contributed significantly to my decision to go into exercise science. 


I attended Chatham University for three and a half years, and I just recently graduated with a degree in Exercise Science. I will be attending Chatham’s Physical Therapy program this coming fall. Having a love for sports and fitness drove my passion in choosing and completing my degree. I have always wanted to learn more about the biomechanics behind exercises since a young age. I am quite passionate about fitness and helping people reach their best selves, but I am always ready for an opportunity to teach and learn new information!


Adopt a Road with UF

One of the goals we have here at UF is to be good stewards of not only our gym, but also our neighborhood, and our world. With this end goal in mind we have added another opportunity for our staff to help our region. We have adopted N Taylor Ave though PGH Street St Stewards. Once a week we head over there, grab a coffee at commonplace, then walk back and pick up trash during our stroll.


This week was our first week and we had a few members ask if they could join us. YES! We would love to do this as a community. So here are the details. We will meet every Thursday at 1:30 PM. We will meet at UF then walk to commonplace with bags in hand. As we walk back we will pick up all the trash we can and then dispose of it at UF. If you would like to join us then let’s do it!


All we need is for you to show up ready to have some fun and make the world a better place. Week 1 took us about 1 hour to complete it all and Hamer, CeJ, Curtis had a blast meeting neighbors and discussing random items we found.


So let’s all come together and make a better world for everyone.



State of the Union; The Staff

Today is one of our beloved staff members last days. I am always sad when a valued member of the team (and a friend) leaves us. Yet as I told Toria, I am sad that you are leaving yet excited to see your adventures and watch you grow. Today if you get a chance stop by and say goodbye to our friend Toria on her last day at UF.


While thinking about Toria leaving I thought it would be a good time to give props to the best gym staff in Pittsburgh.


Cody Miller- Cody and I have known each other for over a decade now and he is a true friend to myself and my family. Cody was most recently a strength coach at Clemson, prior to joining UF. He is also one heck of a powerlifter. In addition he is one of the smartest strength coaches I know (and I know many), even if he drives me nuts, like any little brother should.


Cayt Neff– Can you name anyone who has the expertise to be your Personal Trainer and your massage therapist? I can, and it’s Cayt. Cayt always surprises me as she seems quiet yet her compassion for her clients is top notch.


Ethan Raese– I have been fortunate enough to oversee scores of coaches throughout my career and I have never received as many glowing reviews as I have about Ethan. Not only is he a great coach and trainer, Ethan is also an accomplished musician. How many people do you know that have toured the world playing music?


Gillian Kane– Gil is our in house nerd due to her med school work. So when you see her at the front desk you may notice she is studying for her med school exams. She is also a former D1 athlete, she played volleyball at the George Washington University.


Matt Grayson– Matt and I go back about 15 years when I was just a young strength coach and he was a D-Line coach. We worked closely together to get a leadership academy rolling during our time at Robert Morris University. Matt is a true friend and he is here to help everyone he sees.


Jared Caroff– Don’t let this man’s youthful good looks fool you. He is an elite level powerlifter and in his other job he goes by Dr. Caroff. Jared is a DPT and one strong dude, find him opening the gym for us three days a week.


Jamar Cromwell– Jamar is our in house photographer and sometime front desk guy. Fun fact about Jamar, he like Ethan is an accomplished musician. Jamar is a jazz saxophonist and probably the most humble man to ever squat over 600.


Haley Tamilla– We miss Haley as she is out helping her family during a trying time. When she is here she is our go to yoga expert, and is committed to spreading the good word of yoga. We miss you Haley and can’t wait to see you again.


Steph Stahovic– Or as I call her model Steph. You can catch Steph taking or leading cardiolab classes. She is a true grinder. Steph often comes here in the morning to run a class, works all day, and then comes back to train at night.


Sara Runser– Or as I call her emo Bill Ellish (yes I stole the name, yet it fits). Sara came to us in early 2020 to teach some cardiolab classes, and she is awesome with the positive mental attitude she brings everyday. Also, you never know if she will have dark hair, blonde hair or even purple hair (I like the purple).


Dave Jackson– If you hear a booming voice then Dave is in the house. Like myself Dave came from the strength and conditioning world and you can tell by the fact that his coaching voice goes to 11. He handles most of the morning powerful classes and results don’t lie, he is doing an amazing job with the classes and the members.


Catlyn Brooke– Welcome back to one of longest tenured employees of UF. Catlyn has been an asset for years and we are excited that she is back after some time off. Catlyn is running utility for now as she has no set class schedule, but if you were here in the before times then you’ll be happy to see her back.


Shannon Taub– Welcome the rookie to the plate. Shannon has just joined us to teach some classes. She is a former D1 athlete at Duquesne and is coaching at Duquesne now as well. If you haven’t met her stop by and introduce yourself.


And finally the lady of the hour Toria Crispin– Toria joined us last summer and has done everything here and more. The entire management team of UF wants to send a huge thank you to Toria as she has stepped up, learned new things, grown and even rocked some tunes with me. She is leaving us to go do smart people things at the University of Colorado at Denver. We wish her nothing but the best and whenever anyone is in Denver you have a place to stay (yes I just offered her couch to anyone on earth). Toria thank you for all you have done for UF. Each of us are better for being your co-worker and friend.




Weekly Wrap Up

Another week, another snowfall. I just heard that this year is one of the ten snowiest on record in the Pittsburgh region. So enjoy the skiing, sledding, and snowboarding. Here is a quick run down off all we have going on to get you ready for your summer bodies.


  1. Mark your calendars, for the Iron City Open is back. We will follow all Covid-19 protocols and let’s hope that we are back to a more “normal’ meet this year. More info can be found here.
  2. Head over to our this link to read our member spotlight. Jessie is one of the finest humans I know and it is an honor for us to have her train at UF.
  3. This weeks Podcast we had the AD from Point Park University. Give it a listen on Spotify or Apple under Union Fitness Podcast.
  4. Finally, please read a tribute I wrote to a dear friend who was taken from this earth too soon. May Murat Rest In Peace. Click here.


Thank you for taking the time to read this and as always please give us your feedback. We are here to serve you, and make your visit here one of the best things that happens in your life each and every week.


Yours in strength.


Todd Hamer

Weekly Wrap Up

Another week and some more snow. While not everyone loves snow, I do enjoy sled riding with Tenzing so it has been good for us as we have had 3 sled ride sessions this week. So let’s hope for more on Monday’s storm. As for the gym we are happy to be open, clean, and safe. Here is a quick run down of what we’ve done this week and what’s to come.


  1. Podcast this week with Curtis and Jared is a good one about many issue lifters have from finding training partners to just training in general.
  2. Check out this weeks blog on relatively healthy desserts.
  3. We are preparing for what should be a great spring and this includes preparing for our in house push pull at the end of march. If you want to have some fun and challenge yourself then give us a heads up and we will add you to the list.
  4. My personal favorite blog of the year was from Curtis and can be read here. 


With a lot going on and some exciting things in the works for the near future we hope to be able to keep offering you a clean, healthy, and safe place to train. As always any issues can be sent directly to me Todd Hamer (


Be Strong!


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.

Weekly Wrap Up

Another week of training and another 2% of our year is coming to a close. Have you stuck to your goals? If not then let’s get back up today and get back to work. If you have stuck to them then great job and keep it up.


Here is a quick wrap up of our week here at UF.


  1. We are beginning a mental health series. We are scheduling dates now to have speakers come in on this very important topic. This will be free to all members and we will post it online for all to watch.
  2. We have added an extra hour for you to train on Saturday mornings. From this point forth we will open at 8 AM on Saturdays so please come over and train earlier.
  3. What Went Well. We are beginning a What Went Well board for our powerful classes. This is the brain child of our own Cody (worsh) Miller. The WWW board will be a chance to reflect upon your workout and write down one thing that went well for you. Always leave on a positive note.
  4. Check out our member spotlight, because Ward is a cool dude.


As always thanks for being a member here and keep us up to date on how you feel we can better serve you and our 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

Push/Pull and Summer Strength Project

With the new year here and spring coming right around the corner, we have been hard at work planning our events for the upcoming months. If you have been with us for a period of time, then you are aware of our annual Strength Project event that we host each year. Last year, our Strength Project kicked off in January with the addition of a fund raiser and charity push/pull powerlifting competition. Unfortunately, our plans were sidelined with the onset of the pandemic, and although we did complete our goal for the fund raiser, we were unable to host our push/pull event for our members.


Well, that was last year, and this is a new year. With our sights set on providing you with new ideas and events, we are picking back up right where we left off. On Sunday March 21st we will be coming back to finish our Push/pull event as well as another fund raiser to support the Pittsburgh community (more details to come). The event will be free for any member who would like to sign up, along with anyone who had previously signed up for last years event but was unable to compete.


Following the conclusion of the push/pull event, we will be kicking off our Summer Strength Project beginning in early April with the goal of getting everyone ready for sunshine and adventures. Our Powerful and Cardio Lab coaches will be working together on the class programming to help you reach all of your goals. At the end of the Summer Strength Project in early June, we will be holding a cookout with food, drinks, and a hands on seminar. 


Be sure to keep your eyes and ears peeled for more details to come regarding these events.